An explanation behind the sudden death of about 5,000 sheep appears to be closer to reality.
Bændablaðið reports that Jónas Elíasson, a research professor in engineering at the University of Iceland, believes that he has found the reason why 4,600 sheep across Iceland have inexplicably died off over the past few months. As suspected, it is indeed connected to the Holuhraun eruption, but not in the way many speculated.
Jónas, who is part of an international research team that investigates volcanic ash in the air, believes that sulphur is the likely culprit. As sulphur from the eruption descended into the snows of north Iceland, it made its way into the ground surface with the coming spring and from there, was absorbed by grass. While the sulphur levels in the grass were not high enough to poison the sheep directly, he said, they were high enough to affect the sheep’s digestive system – specifically, no matter how much the sheep ate, they could not get any nourishment, and for all intents and purposes starved to death.
The explanation is in keeping with what farmers observed of their flocks. Many reported that their sheep did not show signs of fluoride poisoning and, while eating plenty of grass, rapidly lost weight, became weak, and soon died.
While more research is needed for the explanation to be conclusive, it is still the most likely explanation for what wiped out the sheep in question.