The primary use of the term Oceania is to describe a continental region (like Europe or Africa) that lies between Asia and the Americas, with Australia as the major land mass. The name Oceania is used, rather than Australasia, because unlike the other continental groupings, it is the ocean rather than the continent that links the nations together. Oceania is the smallest continental grouping in land area and the second smallest, after Antarctica, in population.
Only five percent of the islands' land area is arable land; permanent crops cover another 20%. Deforestation is a serious problem; leaving the mountainous terrain of Futuna prone to erosion. There are no permanent settlements on Alofi because of the lack of natural fresh water resources. The population is 14,944 (2003) and the capital is Mata-Utu.
Lōʻihi began forming around 400,000 years ago and is expected to begin emerging above sea level about 10,000–100,000 years from now. At its summit, Lōʻihi Seamount stands more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft) above the seafloor, making it taller than Mount St. Helens was before its catastrophic 1980 eruption. The summit is currently 975 m (3,000 ft) below sea level. A diverse microbial community resides around Lōʻihi's many hydrothermal vents.