Volcano fields are unique ecosystems found around the world’s active volcanoes. A volcano field usually encompasses any number of active volcanoes clustered together in relatively close quarters. These environments are characterized by magma and ash as soil parent material and often exhibit early stages of succession in an ecosystem. Frequent disturbance of volcanic activity can prevent succession from proceeding to high orders. These eruptions can produce or displace magma, rock, or ash, depending on unique characteristics of every volcano or eruption event.
These areas are quite special because they represent the spearhead of geologic time. Materials from the earth’s inner layers are introduced to the lithosphere and atmosphere, which can cause interesting phenomena among microbial populations.
The microbial populations found in such areas are categorized by their abilities to process the new or changed materials on the earth’s surface. Although disturbance is high right near the source of magma and ash flows, these flows do not always cover an area completely, which provides physical, chemical, and biological diversity between and across sites near a volcano.
Microorganisms that occupy these areas are typically extremophiles that tolerate high heat, and are often oxidize CO and utilize methanogenesis. These early processes help prepare the lava and ash deposits to be suitable to support higher life forms.
The physical environment of a volcano field is somewhat diverse, as the materials present can come from lava flows, or ash flows. Also, they change dramatically over time due to microbial and atmospheric weathering processes.
Very high concentrations of silicates cause lava to be an acidic environment, suitable for acidophiles, while less acidic flows are represented by a lower concentration of silicate material.
Microorganisms colonize recent volcanic deposits and are able to establish diverse communities, their composition is governed by variations in local deposit parameters.
A brand new lava flow is likely to have a high concentration of silicate, with significant amounts of aluminum, potassium, sodium, and calcium found throughout. Differences in silicate concentrations affect the viscosity of the medium, changing the manner of eruption, flow, and after-effects.
Mafic, or basaltic, lava is high in iron and magnesium and lower in aluminum and silicates.
Felsic lava is very viscous, and has a higher concentration of silicate material, and produces a very blocky pattern as it cools.
Succession from bare lava flow to forest occurs over time, as living things, from microbes to animals, change the landscape by living in and around it. Microbes are always present first because certain types are able to withstand the extreme heat involved with lava flows.
Chemolithoautotrophs use the materials in recent lava flows for energy first(the earliest users being thermophiles). Breakdowns cause soils to start to form, allowing plant life to establish. Plant life will draw in animal grazers, which both help the soil develop further by physically altering its structure.
Are there important biological interactions that are important in this environment? Do these interactions influence microbial populations and their activities? How do these interactions influence other organisms? Describe biological interactions that might take place in this environment, using as many sections/subsections as you require. Look at other topics available in MicrobeWiki. Create links where relevant.
What microbial processes define this environment? Describe microbial processes that are important in this habitat, adding sections/subsections as needed. Look at other topics in MicrobeWiki. Are some of these processes already described? Create links where relevant.
What kind of microbes do we typically find in this environment? Or associated with important processes in this environment? Describe key groups of microbes that we find in this environment, and any special adaptations they may have evolved to survive in this environment. Add sections/subsections as needed. Look at other microbe listings in MicrobeWiki. Are some of the groups of microbes from your environment already described? Create links to those pages. Specific microbial populations will be included in the next section.
Examples of organisms within the group
List examples of specific microbes that represent key groups or are associated with important processes found in this environment. Link to other MicrobeWiki pages where possible.
Enter summaries of recent research here--at least three required
[Sample reference] Takai, K., Sugai, A., Itoh, T., and Horikoshi, K. "Palaeococcus ferrophilus gen. nov., sp. nov., a barophilic, hyperthermophilic archaeon from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent chimney". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 2000. Volume 50. p. 489-500.
Edited by student of Angela Kent at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.