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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. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

Original publication




Journal article


Bulletin of Volcanology

Publication Date





1009 - 1020