Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 72, Issue 8, pp 1009–1020 | Cite as

Major and trace element distributions around active volcanic vents determined by analyses of grasses: implications for element cycling and bio-monitoring

  • R. S. Martin
  • T. A. Mather
  • D. M. Pyle
  • J. A. Day
  • M. L. I. Witt
  • S. J. Collins
  • R. G. Hilton
Research Article


Samples of grass were collected at Masaya Volcano (Nicaragua; Rhynchelytrum repens and Andropogon angustatus) and the Piton de La Fournaise (around the April 2007 eruptive vent, La Réunion; Vetiveria zizanioides) to investigate the controls on major and trace element concentrations in plants around active volcanic vents. Samples were analysed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for a wide range of elements, and atomic absorption spectroscopy for Hg. At Masaya, As, Cu, Mo, Tl and K concentrations in both grass species showed a simple pattern of variability consistent with exposure to the volcanic plume. Similar variability was found in A. angustatus for Al, Co, Cs, Hg and Mg. At the Piton de La Fournaise, the patterns of variability in V. zizanioides were more complex and related to variable exposures to emissions from both the active vent and lava flow. These results suggest that exposure to volcanic emissions is, for many elements, the main control on compositional variability in vegetation growing on active volcanoes. Thus, vegetation may be an important environmental reservoir for elements emitted by volcanoes and should be considered as part of the global biogeochemical cycles.


Volcanic Environment Masaya Fournaise Trace element 



The authors thank the staff of Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales and Piton de La Fournaise Volcano Observatory for granting permission to undertake fieldwork, and gratefully acknowledge NERC grants NE/C511180/2, NE/G01700X/1 and NE/G001219/1 for support. RSM thanks Christ’s College for a Junior Research Fellowship and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for a PhD studentship. RSM also thanks Pierre Delmelle (University of York, UK) and Marie Edmonds (University of Cambridge, UK) for their insightful comments on the PhD dissertation upon which this article is based. TAM thanks the Royal Society for support. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful reviews on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. S. Martin
    • 1
    • 2
  • T. A. Mather
    • 3
  • D. M. Pyle
    • 3
  • J. A. Day
    • 2
  • M. L. I. Witt
    • 3
  • S. J. Collins
    • 4
  • R. G. Hilton
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Biological and Chemical SciencesQueen MaryUniversity of LondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  4. 4.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK
  5. 5.Department of GeographyUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK

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