Young Island Is Scientists' Playground

Surtsey, formed off Iceland in 1963 eruption, is no-tourists-allowed model of evolution
By Michael Roston,  Newser User
Posted Oct 27, 2008 2:22 PM CDT
Surtsey Island photographed in June 2007.   (Canons2/Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – On Surtsey, off Iceland's coast, scientists take life one species at a time, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Since the island erupted from the ocean in 1963, only researchers have been permitted to visit and catalog its colonization by external species. With 2½ acres of land eroding each year, they’re likely to be the only humans to see its wonders before the ocean reclaims it.

Weathering wintry winds in a small hut, researchers have cataloged 69 plant and 14 bird species. “In the beginning, we knew almost every plant as individuals,” a lead scientist says.
When tomato plants appeared, they were traced to human activity, and rooted out to preserve the native ecosystem. And as the ocean reclaims the young island, one marvels, “you really see the forces of nature.”