Natural Hazards

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 185–212 | Cite as

Impacts on agriculture following the 1991 eruption of Vulcan Hudson, Patagonia: lessons for recovery

  • Thomas Wilson
  • Jim Cole
  • Shane Cronin
  • Carol Stewart
  • David Johnston
Original Paper


Large explosive eruptions have the potential to distribute heavy ashfalls across large areas, resulting in physical and chemical impacts on agriculture, and economic and psycho-social impacts on rural communities. This study investigates how affected agriculture and rural communities have adapted, absorbed and mitigated impacts following a range of ashfall thicknesses (>2 m–<1 mm) from the 12–15 August 1991 eruption of Vulcan Hudson, one of the largest eruptions of the twentieth century. An estimated 1 million livestock died after the eruption due to pasture burial by ashfall and ongoing suppression of vegetation recovery. Horticulturalists suffered ongoing damage to crops from wind-blown ash and changes to soil properties increased irrigation and cultivation requirements. Real or perceived impacts on human health and impacts on farm productivity from the ashfall resulted in evacuation of farms and small towns in the short term. Long-term farm abandonment occurred in areas of heavy ashfall (upper Ibáñez valley) and highly stressed farming systems, even where ashfall was relatively thin (<50 mm), such as the Argentine steppe. The mono-agricultural system of sheep farming in the steppe region had few options other than destocking, proving less resilient than the diverse high-intensity horticultural and pastoral mix in irrigated valleys, which allowed more rapid adaption through diversification of production. Farms with natural advantages and greater investment in capital improvements led to greater damage potential initially (at least in cost terms), but ultimately provided a greater capacity for response and recovery. Better soils, climate and significantly greater access to technological improvements such as cultivation tools, irrigation and wind breaks were advantageous, such as at Chile Chico (Chile), Los Antiguos and Perito Moreno (Argentina). Cultivation increased chemical and physical soil fertility, especially when used in combination with fertilisation and irrigation. Appropriate use of seeds and cropping techniques within the new soil and growing conditions was important. Government agencies had a vital role in the dissemination of information for appropriate farm management responses, ash chemistry analysis, evacuations and welfare, and in the longer term to provide technical and credit assistance to facilitate recovery.


Hudson Agriculture Ashfall impacts Recovery Volcanic hazards 



The authors would like to thank David Dewar for his outstanding translation and field support. We thank and acknowledge funding assistance from the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Grant POR/SUS 7802/40 (Wilson), Earthquake Commission, Foundation of Research Science and Technology Grants MAUX0401 (Cronin) & C05X0804 (Johnston & Cole), and the University of Canterbury Mason Trust. Thank you to Bob Tose, Ian Furkert, Lance Currie and Ross Wallace for soil analyses. Thank you to Tina Neal and an anonymous reviewer for insightful and very supportive reviews. Sincere thanks to interviewees—in particular: Don Julio Cerda Cordero, Veterinarian, SAG; Uylsies Pededa, farmer & artist, Puerto Ibanez; Ananias Jonnutz—Productov, Orchardist, Los Antiguos; Don Hector Sandin, Ranch owner, Los Antiguos/Perito Moreno; Luis Fernando Sandoval Figueroa, Civil Defence Officer, Los Antiguos; Shaquid Hamer, former Agricultural Officer for El Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria, Argentina (retired), Perito Moreno; Don Hugo Ciselli, mechanic & farmer at Tres Cerros; Antonio Tomasso, cable television installation specialist & farmer, Puerto San Julian; Alberto James Alder, former Mayor, Puerto San Julian.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Wilson
    • 1
  • Jim Cole
    • 1
  • Shane Cronin
    • 2
  • Carol Stewart
    • 3
  • David Johnston
    • 4
  1. 1.Natural Hazard Research Centre, Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Volcanic Risk SolutionsMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  3. 3.Private ConsultantBrooklyn, WellingtonNew Zealand
  4. 4.Joint Centre for Disaster ManagementGNS/Massey UniversityLower HuttNew Zealand

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