New Research: Surtsey Island Is Blossoming With Life

New Research: Surtsey Island Is Blossoming With Life

Published July 22, 2019

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
The Icelandic Institute of Natural History/Erling Ólafsson

Research on Iceland’s youngest island, Surtsey, shows it has been bursting with new life of all kinds, from plants to birds and even spiders.

Further study of the island has turned up some surprises, The Icelandic Institute of Natural History reports. Grasslands on Surtsey have expanded, including a new species of vascular plant, expanding the green areas of the island even further.

This expansion is fuelled in large part by sea birds, who have been nesting on Surtsey. Biologists studying the bird life there found that not only have nesting grounds expanded, accelerating the plant growth; newer and larger bird species are starting to take over. This is especially the case with the great black-backed gull, which have been experiencing a population boom on the island.


Within this circle of life between birds and plant life, insects are also thriving, especially flying insects and beetles. However, one exciting discovery has been the sighting of mitopus morio, a species of harvestman spider.

Surtsey is so young an island, geologically speaking, that is it barely newborn, having only just celebrated its 55th birthday. Its creation was marked by an enormous series of eruptions in the Westman Island archipelago in 1973.

While Surtsey island is closed to all but scientists, you can have a look at it on webcam.

Read more about Surtsey island here. Read more about the Westman Islands, including stories on travel, nature, food and culture, here.

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