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Volcan Villarrica, Andes Mountains,
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G.
Explanation: Life is tenacious. It persists on, and around, this island in the sky, despite hazards of earthquakes, debris avalanches, landslides, mudflows, and eruptions. Such are the perils of life on a volcano.
Reaching 2,850 m (9,250 ft) tall, this is Volcan Villarrica (locally pronounced "Veezha-reeka") in the Andes Mountains of southern Chile. On this fine late-summer day it began to vent, not an uncommon sight for this stratocone mountain, but still a bit disconcerting when viewing it from one of the nearby tourist villages that dot its flanks, such as seen here from the town of Villarrica.
The town of Villarrica was destroyed in 1575 by a massive earthquake, and major eruptions occurred in 1640 and 1948. Some local residents may remember the massive set of earthquakes topping 6 on the Richter scale that hit the region during May 21-25, 1960, triggering volcanic eruptions and thousands of avalanches and mudslides. More recent eruptions of 1984-85 created a persistent lava lake within the summit crater, and explosive eruptions with spewing of toxic gases occurred during August-December 1999.
Interestingly, though, many native trees including southern beech (Nothofagus) actually rely on major disturbances to regenerate. They have evolved to thrive with these major geological perils, just as shrubs and other plants of the chaparral ecosystem in southern California have evolved with mudslides and frequent fire. But other life forms not so adapted, including many mammals, reptiles, and other plants, must contend with life on the edge.
Next week's picture: Casual Visitor or Pollinator?
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