Kunashir is the southernmost of the Kuril Islands — its southern half dips inside the wide bay formed by the Nemuro and Shiretoko peninsulas of Japan's island of Hokkaido, thus partially surrounding the island by Japanese territory (see panoramic image. The Habomai islands lie off its southeast coast.

Kunashir exhibits a pattern of formation that is shared by many of the islands of the Kuril chain: being the result of a merging of smaller islands. Kunashir was formed by the union of four separate mountains (islands): Golovnin, Mendeleev and Otdel'naya, Tyatya, and the Lovtsov Peninsula. These parts of Kunashir are united by low-lying areas on which lagoon lakes of various sizes are situated.

With an area of 1,490 km², kunashir is the second largest of the Kuril Islands. Its interior is mountainous, being dominated by a series of tall volcanoes. The island is thickly wooded with forests of Oak, Maple, White Elm, Birch and Alder. Conifer forests include Spruce and Firs. Meadows and shrub communities are common on lower ground as are areas of thick Bamboo scrub (Sasa kurilensis).

image: earth sciences and image analysis laboratory, nasa johnson space center

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