Iceland’s Surtsey island, from lifeless volcano to biotope

This video is called Volcanic Activity: The Formation of Surtsey.

Another video on Surtsey is here.

From Iceland Review:

July 08 2008

Iceland’s Surtsey on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

The World Heritage Committee inscribed 13 new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List after a meeting in Canada yesterday. The new sites include Iceland’s young volcanic island Surtsey, which has been preserved as a living laboratory since 1964.

Surtsey, the southernmost isle of the Westman Islands archipelago, located approximately 32 kilometers from the south coast of Iceland, was formed in a series of volcanic eruptions that took place from 1963 to 1967.

According to UNESCO, it is all the more outstanding for having been protected since its birth, providing the world with a pristine natural laboratory.

Free from human interference, Surtsey has been producing unique long-term information on the colonization process of new land by plant and animal life.

Since they began studying the island in 1964, scientists have observed the arrival of seeds carried by ocean currents, the appearance of moulds, bacteria and fungi, followed in 1965 by the first vascular plant, of which there were ten species by the end of the first decade.

By 2004, there were 60 such plants and 75 bryophytes, 71 lichens [see also here and here] and 24 fungi. Eighty-nine species of birds have been recorded on Surtsey, 57 of which breed elsewhere in Iceland. The 141-hectare island is also home to 335 species of invertebrates.

Click here to read more about Surtsey …

There is also a feature on Surtsey in the 2008 spring issue of Iceland Review. Former staff writer Sara Blask was given a rare chance to visit the living laboratory.

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10 thoughts on “Iceland’s Surtsey island, from lifeless volcano to biotope

  1. Golden plovers nest on Surtsey

    29 May 2009 Filed in: Wildlife

    Our brief news item in March concerning golden plovers returning to Iceland didn’t foresee an important new record of their Icelandic distribution…

    Golden plovers have bred on Surtsey for the first time reports the Icelandic Institute of Natural History. A recent expedition to the new volcanic island (Surtsey formed in an undersea volcanic eruption in 1963) discovered the plover’s nest. There are now 15 species of birds recorded breeding there.

    Good news for plovers and it really is very interesting to see the continuing pattern of natural settlement occurring on the island.


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