Categorized | Environment

Learn how life reappears on lava flows (March 23)

Ohelo in fruit (Photo courtesy of Tim Tunison)

Ohelo in fruit (Photo courtesy of Tim Tunison)


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with two active volcanoes, may be one of the world’s best outdoor classrooms for learning about the colonization of new geological surfaces, a process that ecologists label “primary succession,” says botanist Tim Tunison.

The public is invited to join Tunison 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, March 23 for his fascinating field seminar “Life on Recent Lava Flows.”

“The lava flows along the Chain of Craters Road, resulting from the Mauna Ulu flows and other eruptions in the 1970s, are a highly accessible and informative area,” Tunison said. “Life has noticeably recolonized these 30 to 40 year old flows and deposits, but the simplicity and sparseness of life make species identification manageable – and ecological patterns readily apparent.”

In this program, participants will learn the characteristic small suite of plant and animal species found on recent lava flows; how succession on lava in Hawaii differs from that on rock surfaces; how rates of colonization differ on ‘a‘a versus pahoehoe and from dry to wet areas; and why there are few alien, invasive plants on recent lava flows.

The day involves short walks in three or four sites (on pahoehoe or deep cinder) totaling about one mile. Tuition includes a pictorial species identification handout and a CD “mini book” to take home.

Tunison was a botanist at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from 1982-1994 in charge of programs dealing with invasive plant management, plant community restoration, rare plant recovery and fire ecology. From 1995-2006 he was the park’s Chief of Resource Management.

Since retirement, Tunison has stayed connected with the plants of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park by teaching field botany classes in Volcano.

“Life on Recent Lava Flows” is presented by the Hawaii Volcanoes Institute, which is part of the Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a non-profit organization.

Program cost is $50 for Friends members and $65 for non-members. Students (K-12 and college with valid student ID) are half-price. Non-members are welcome to join the Friends in order to get the member discount.

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