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(Spice Islands), a group of islands in the eastern Malay Archipelago, in Indonesia, lying between Sulawesi and New Guinea. Area, 83,700 sq km. Population, approximately 1 million (1971, estimate). The Moluccas extend from north to south and southeast for 1,300 km. The largest islands are Halmahera, Ceram, and Buru. The islands are mountainous, with elevations reaching 3,019 m on Mount Binaija in Ceram, and are located in a seismic zone with frequent earthquakes. There are numerous volcanoes, including about ten active ones. Natural resources include deposits of tin, gold, and petroleum.
The climate is equatorial, except in the south, where it is subequatorial. The temperature along the coast fluctuates between 25° and 27°C. The lower slopes receive between 800 mm and 2,000 mm of precipitation annually, and the higher slopes, 4,000 mm or more. Equatorial forests of palms, Ficus, dipterocarps, and bamboo occupy more than 80 percent of the territory, giving way to deciduous and coniferous species above 1,200 m. Thickets of shrubs, tree ferns, and alang-alang grow profusely in the lowlands. The fauna includes both East Asian and Australian species, such as marsupials of the family Phalangeridae, bats, cassowaries, birds of paradise, crocodiles, boas, and tree frogs. Important agricultural products are sago, coconuts, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. The largest city and port is Ambon on the island of Ambon.
I. V. KOZLOV