We studied the vegetation of Kasatochi Island, central Aleutian Islands, to provide a general field assessment regarding the survival of plants, lichens, and fungi following a destructive volcanic eruption that occurred in 2008. Plant community data were analyzed using multivariate methods to explore the relationship between pre- and post-eruption plant cover; 5 major vegetation types were identified: Honckenya peploides beach, Festuca rubra cliff shelf, Lupinus nootkatensis–Festuca rubra meadow, Leymus mollis bluff ridge (and beach), and Aleuria aurantia lower slope barrens. Our study provided a very unusual glimpse into the early stages of plant primary succession on a remote island where most of the vegetation was destroyed. Plants that apparently survived the eruption dominated early plant communities. Not surprisingly, the most diverse post-eruption community most closely resembled a widespread pre-eruption type. Microhabitats where early plant communities were found were distinct and apparently crucial in determining plant survival. Comparison with volcanic events in related boreal regions indicated some post-eruption pattern similarities.
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