News & Opinion | June 23, 2018 5:00 am

Many of Hawaii’s Natural Wonders Are Being Destroyed By Lava

Rare sites and whole ecosystems have been wiped out by the latest stage of Kilauea's eruption.

Kilauea
Ash plume rises from forest following a massive volcano eruption on Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, United States on May 22, 2018. Lava is spewing more than 60 metres into the air and spread around 36,000 square metres. (USGS / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Getty Images

When the Kilauea volcano unleashed its latest stage of eruption, residents in Puna watched the forest around them begin to die. The fruit trees, flowers, and ferns quickly began to turn brown from the noxious, sulfur-dioxide-filled air. Then the lava came through, effectively paving over formerly verdant forest with rough and barren volcanic rock. On Hawaii’s Big Island, lava from the latest flow has covered over tide pools and coral gardens, boiled a 400-year-old lake until it evaporated, and killed various sea creatures, reports The Guardian. 

Scientists say that this is part of life on the state’s youngest island, where new land gets continuously created by the lava reshaping the natural environment.

“From a human point of view, what’s happening is tragic,” said David Damby, a volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). “But from the volcano’s point of view, that’s the job she does: to build new land and change the landscape. That’s the way the earth works.”