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Introduction - The impacts of the 2008 eruption of Kasatochi Volcano on terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska

October 19, 2011

The Aleutian Islands are situated on the northern edge of the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a 40,000-km-long horseshoe-shaped assemblage of continental landmasses and islands bordering the Pacific Ocean basin that contains many of the world's active and dormant volcanoes. Schaefer et al. (2009) listed 27 historically active volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands, of which nine have had at least one major eruptive event since 1990. Volcanic eruptions are often significant natural disturbances, and ecosystem responses to volcanic eruptions may vary markedly with eruption style (effusive versus explosive), frequency, and magnitude of the eruption as well as isolation of the disturbed sites from potential colonizing organisms (del Moral and Grishin, 1999). Despite the relatively high frequency of volcanic activity in the Aleutians, the response of island ecosystems to volcanic disturbances is largely unstudied because of the region's isolation. The only ecological studies in the region that address the effects of volcanic activity were done on Bogoslof Island, a remote, highly active volcanic island in the eastern Aleutians, which grew from a submarine eruption in 1796 (Merriam, 1910; Byrd et al., 1980; Byrd and Williams, 1994). Nevertheless, in the 214 years of Bogoslof's existence, the island has been visited only intermittently.

Kasatochi Island is a small (2.9 km by 2.6 km, 314 m high) volcano in the central Aleutian Islands of Alaska (52.17°N latitude, 175.51°W longitude; Fig. 1) that erupted violently on 7-8 August 2008 after a brief, but intense period of precursory seismic activity (Scott et al., 2010 [this issue]; Waythomas et al., in review). The island is part of the Aleutian arc volcanic front, and is an isolated singular island. Although the immediate offshore areas are relatively shallow (20–50 m water depth), the island is about 10 km south of the 2000 m isobath, north of which, ocean depths increase markedly. Kasatochi is located between the deepwater basin of the Bering Sea to the north and shallower areas of intense upwelling in Atka and Fenimore Passes in the North Pacific Ocean to the south. This area apparently produces high marine productivity based on concentrations of feeding marine birds and mammals (see Drew et al., 2010 [this issue]). Kasatochi is about 85 km northeast of Adak, the nearest community and a regional transportation hub, and about 19 km northwest of the western end of Atka Island. The nearest historically active volcanoes are Great Sitkin volcano, about 35 km to the west, and Korovin volcano on Atka Island, about 94 km to the east. Koniuji Island, another small volcanic island, is located about 25 km east of Kasatochi (Fig. 1).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2010
Title Introduction - The impacts of the 2008 eruption of Kasatochi Volcano on terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska
DOI 10.1657/1938-4246-42.3.245
Authors Anthony R. DeGange, G. Vernon Byrd, Lawrence R. Walker, C. F. Waythomas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Index ID 70005757
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center