New Japanese island offers ‘natural lab’ for scientists studying evolution

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A brand new island off Japan’s coast offers scientists a “natural laboratory” to watch how animal and flora start to inhabit virgin land. Researchers say the important thing elements will probably be chicken poo and vomit, which can contribute to nutrient-rich soil.

The island, which comprises a still-active volcano, is a few 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Tokyo. Spanning 2.46 kilometers (620 miles), it emerged from the Pacific Ocean following an eruption in November 2013.

It has grown to engulf its as soon as bigger neighbor, Nishinoshima, a part of Japan’s Ogasawara island chain which is thought for the range and wealth of its ecosystem. Though it’s at present nearly all naked rock shaped by cooled lava, scientists say the brand new Nishinoshima will someday be filled with plant – and presumably animal – life.

“We biologists are very much focusing on the new island because we’ll be able to observe the starting point of evolutionary processes,” Naoki Kachi, professor and chief of Tokyo Metropolitan University’s Ogasawara Research Committee, instructed AFP.

Scientists don’t know when the island will cease spewing lava, however Kachi mentioned that when the volcanic exercise dies down, “what will probably happen first will be the arrival of plants brought by ocean currents and attached to birds’ feet.”

Those birds may ultimately arrange residence on the island, or on the very least use it as a brief resting place.

Waste from these birds – together with feces, dropped feathers, regurgitated meals, and rotting corpses – will probably be crucial element of the island’s colonization, forming a nutrient-rich soil providing fertile floor for seeds carried by the wind, or introduced within the digestive techniques of overflying birds.

“I am most interested in the effects of birds on the plants’ ecosystem – how their bodily wastes-turned-organic fertilizers enrich the vegetation and how their activities disturb it,” Kachi mentioned.

Nishinoshima is anticipated to observe the trail of Surtsey, an island that emerged round 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) off the coast of Iceland in 1963. During its half-a-century existence, researchers have watched a habitat evolve on the island. By 2004, it possessed a variety of crops, together with 89 species of birds and 335 species of invertebrates.

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