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article imageIceland's volcanic eruption threatens nation's agriculture

By Stephanie Dearing     Apr 19, 2010 in World
While the world obsesses over how it might get around the airborne plume of volcanic ash disrupting travel in the northern hemisphere, Iceland has been largely left out of the news.
Maybe it's the enormous losses claimed by airlines by the grounded airlines, now reported to be up to $1 billion for European companies. Perhaps it is the news of hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded all around the world because of the Icelandic volcano. Or perhaps it is the attention being paid to Kenya's financial losses due to the volcano -- $3 million a day, it is said. Whatever the reason, the volcano's effects on the rest of the world has eclipsed the impacts of the eruption on Iceland.
The Farmer's Association of Iceland said "Farmers in South Iceland are experiencing significant difficulties as a result of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. There are great quantities of volcanic material in the atmosphere and ash deposits on the ground. There is also a risk of lowland flooding due to the volcanic activity being under the glacier."
While the area around the volcano is of the greatest concern, because it provides a significant proportion of Iceland's limited agricultural output, the Farmer's Association also said ash was falling over most of Iceland. "Ash has fallen in many areas in Iceland and farmers have been urged to be aware of the danger and monitor their livestock actively. The volcanic ash brings toxins which can be harmful to both animals and humans. Most farmers in the affected areas have rounded up their horses and sheep and placed them indoors. In some places it is almost impossible to stay outdoors due to clouds of fine ash particles. There are few poultry and pig farms in the area, but ash fall can create major problems for such farms as they rely on air conditioning. Drinking water has not been spoiled but farmers are keeping a close eye on any such developments."
The ash is contaminated with fluoride, making any ground water contaminated with the ash dangerous for animals. Farmers, supported by Iceland's government and veterinarians, are preparing to keep their livestock indoors for an indefinite period of time, providing the animals with fresh hay and water to keep them safe.
The Farmer's Association fears that a prolonged eruption will damage Iceland's fragile agricultural system.
The rain, which has fallen on the area for the past two days, creating darkness even through the daytime hours, has let up, and farmers took advantage of the opportunity to round-up their free-ranging livestock, bringing the animals indoors.
The conditions also pose a hazard to people, and farmers are taking precautions, such as wearing masks and protecting their skin and faces from exposure.
After the initial eruption, almost 1,000 residents had to relocate over a fear of floods caused by the rapid melting of a glacier that lies over the erupting volcano.
The volcano named Eyjafjallajokull erupted on March 21st, releasing a large plume of ash, visible from space, is now spewing lava, which appears to be causing less ash to be emitted.
At least one other volcano in Iceland is being monitored carefully by scientists, who say there is a possibility of further eruptions, although there is no certainty as to which volcano might erupt next, or if further eruptions are imminent.
The volcano has also set off a surge in Icelandic tourism, with people travelling to Iceland to see the volcano.
Iceland has been reeling ever since the country's economic system collapsed in 2008, now thought to have been a result of negligence. Iceland has a population of 306,694.
Iceland is situated on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, a place where two tectonic plates meet. There have been a number of earthquakes possibly related to plate tectonics in the past four months in Chile, China, Haiti, and most recently, Afghanistan, among other countries.
Some scientists think the increase in earthquake and volcano activity might be due to global warming. An Iranian cleric has offered an alternative explanation: promiscuous women and extramarital sex.
More about Iceland, Volcano, Toxic poisoning, Animals, Agriculture
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