Five new plants discovered in the ‘living laboratory’

On a recent expedition to Surtsey, scientists discovered five new plants on an island known to many as a ‘living laboratory.’ The group’s annual expedition took them to the small island just off the south coast of Iceland which was created when a volcano exploded in 1963 and is a favourite place for curious scientists.

Dr. Sturla Fridriksson is one such scientist. He has been visiting the island every year for the last 43 years. “I feel like a boy looking for adventures, looking for a treasure,” he said.

In an effort to determine how life would evolve on earth without human interference, access to the island is restricted to a small number of qualified scientists.

This year, the scientists on the exhibition noticed five plants they had not previously discovered to be present on the island. Common Yarrow or Milfoil (Achillea millefolium), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), Small-Reed or Reedgrass (Calamagrostis stricta), Oak Fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris) and CliffWillow-Herb (Epilobium collinum) weren’t growing on Surtsey last year.

Scientists believe the seeds for these species were brought to the island by birds. A variety of birds use the island for nesting including Black-Legged Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, Puffins, Ravens and Sparrows.

This year’s research trip was a joint effort? by the Surtsey Association, the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, the Agricultural University of Iceland and the Environment and Food Agency of Iceland.