Volcanic pumice may have key role in coral reef ecosystems

Floating rafts of pumice attract all sorts of marine life as they float across the South Pacific.

New study suggests floating rafts of pumice could help replenish reefs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Pumice from volcanic explosions may play a previously unknown role in the formation of coral reefs, according to researchers with the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Dr. Scott Bryan, a geologist at the university, led a recent study of westward flowing rafts of pumice after volcanic eruptions in Tonga in 2001 and 2006, finding that plants and tiny animals — including corals — latched onto pumice as it was swept by ocean currents towards north eastern Australia.

“The pumice raft created after the 2006 Home Reef volcano erupted in Tonga initially formed at least a 440-square-kilometer floating mass,” Bryan said. “This mass slowly broke up into streaks and millions to billions of marine organisms such as cyanobacteria, barnacles, molluscs, corals, anemones, and crabs began hitching a ride.” Continue reading

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