Hawaii’s Lava Waterfall

Every day since December, the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii has spewed thousands of gallons of red-hot lava into the Pacific Ocean. The water around the lava becomes so hot—2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—that even microscopic creatures can’t survive, and ash from the eruption can kill nearby fish and birds. But that doesn’t mean the volcano, which has been erupting intermittently since 1983, is creating a marine disaster. Ecologists say eruptions like this can actually boost marine life after the lava stops flowing. When the water cools, tiny plants called phytoplankton float in and feed on the ash. They soon attract fish and other sea creatures that eat the phytoplankton, restarting the food chain. Says Loyc Vanderkluysen, an earth science professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, “Volcanos can pave the way for thriving new ecosystems.”

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CREDIT: Jim McMahon

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