Plants on Volcanic Island Wither in Drought Skip to content

Plants on Volcanic Island Wither in Drought

The condition of the vegetation on the volcanic island Surtsey off South Iceland is poor after the lengthy period of drought this summer, especially on lava rocks where plants have withered, as determined by biologists of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History July 16-20.


Surtsey. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Surtsey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was created in a series of underwater eruptions 1963-1967 and is being preserved as a living laboratory. The general public cannot visit the island but scientists go there on regular expeditions.

In the latest expedition, the island’s flora was studied, insects gathered, the birdlife examined, the progress of vegetation measured, soil samples collected and changes of the coastline noted, reports.

According to, the number of plant species has dropped by one since 2011 and now number 58. A total of 70 species have been found on the island since 1965 but not all of them have become permanent residents.

No new species of insects were found and the condition of birdlife appeared to be similar as in past years; currently, 11 species of birds nest on the island.

Abrasion of the island continues and expeditioners—employees of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, Agricultural University of Iceland and Environment Agency of Iceland—observed significant changes to the coastline.

Click here to read more about Surtsey.


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