17:59 GMT +318 July 2018
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    The newly created Nishinoshima island at the Ogasawara island chain, 1,000 kilometres south of Tokyo

    Japan's New Volcano Island: A 'Natural Lab' to Explore Evolution

    © AFP 2018 / JAPAN COAST GUARD
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    A newly created volcanic island about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo has just the right conditions to develop a full-fledged ecosystem, according to Japanese scientists.

    Scientists say that the newly created Nishinoshima island in the Ogasawara island chain off Japan may someday be turned into a full-blown ecosystem.

    According Japan's Coast Guard, the new island has an area of around 2.46 square kilometers, approximately the size of 345 football pitches. Right now, it mainly consists of bare rock that was formed from cooling lava after a volcanic eruption in November 2013.

    Nishinoshima from the air
    Nishinoshima from the air

    However, the hope is that plants and animals will eventually appear on what scientists describe as a "natural laboratory" located in the Pacific Ocean.

    Dr.Naoki Kachi, professor and leader of Tokyo Metropolitan University's Ogasawara Research Committee, remained upbeat on the future of the island.

    "We biologists are very much focusing on the new island because we'll be able to observe the starting point of evolutionary processes," he was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

    He predicted that after the volcanic activity calms down, "what will probably happen first will be the arrival of plants brought by ocean currents and attached to birds' feet".

    Kachi referred to seabirds, who could  eventually set up home on the island after using it as a temporary resting place.

    "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 said.

    Tongan volcano
    © AFP 2018 / Matangi Tonga / Mary Lyn Fonua
    It is worth noting that the old Nishinoshima island, which has an area of just 0.22 square kilometers, was home to bird colonies until volcanic eruptions scared the birds away.

    As for the new Nishinoshima, it has so far only been monitored from the air, and its maximum height was estimated at 110 meters above the sea level in late December 2014. Meanwhile, Nishinoshima continues to spew lava, with scientists saying that and it is not clear when the process will stop.

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    area, birds, laboratory, animals, plants, volcano, eruption, island, Japan
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