September 19, 2019
Although the eruption of the Kilauea volcano in July of last year caused much damage on the surface, the tons of lava flowing into the sea stimulated a massive algae bloom.
The bloom was so large it was seen from space, stretching over 2,000 square miles. Scientists say this massive bloom is due to the lava heating up deeper water, thus releasing more nutrients for phytoplankton to consume. The lava pouring into the ocean lead to the rise of silicic acid, nitrate, phosphate, and iron levels in the water. The bloom dissipated soon after the lava stopped flowing, but this phenomena leads scientists to question what we know about our ecosystem.
When the volcano erupted, scientists did not expect the lava to trigger a flourishing of life, yet more research into the phenomena explains this event. Researchers say that even knowing the type of phytoplankton that responded to the lava is huge in predicting the types of plants that will grow based upon the nutrients given- which is useful in creating fertilizer. The linkage of different environmental processes is huge in understanding the world we live in.
Though it is unclear how this event affected other marine life, scientists are working to investigate the newly formed pond in the Halema‘uma‘u crater at Kilauea’s summit.