SCIENTISTS are to research the effects of the Icelandic ash cloud on Wales’ environment.
The ash cloud caused air travel chaos for millions of passengers when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in April.
Although it is no longer emitting ash, researchers from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) are to investigate how the volcano has affected the environment from its monitoring station on Snowdon in North Wales.
Over the course of time, they believe that this should give a better understanding of the ash and exactly what it contains. Some scientists believe that the ash that hit the ground in parts of Wales could contain small particles of glass-like silica that could be harmful to breathe in for asthma suffers and could act like acid rain if falling in rain on trees and water courses.
And the Welsh researchers aim to find out how quickly it is incorporated into soils, vegetation and Welsh water systems.
By collecting grass samples and analysing rainfall from Snowdon every week, the researchers hope to gain knowledge of the chemical make-up of the ash itself.
Dylan Lloyd, CCW’s environmental surveillance officer said: “Our samples are being analysed for fluoride levels. Fluorine gas is emitted by volcanoes together with other chemicals, and when concentrations of fluoride become high livestock can suffer from fluorosis.
“Large volcanic eruptions in the past are believed to have caused high mortality levels in Icelandic livestock due, in part, to the fluoride levels.
“This work has been requested by Defra and could give us a clearer picture of the impacts on Wales if history repeats itself.”
This monitoring work is part of a wider research project co-ordinated by the Environmental Change Network (ECN) on its 57 sites across the UK.
With sites across the country and 15 years of data from most terrestrial sites, ECN believes it is well-placed to detect the volcano’s “fingerprint” in Wales and the rest of the UK.
Dr David Parker, CCW’s director of science said: “We have carried out monitoring work over the years, and so we can rapidly detect changes in the environment.
“This information can then be used to ensure that we advise the Government on potential long term impacts of the volcanic ash – on both the people and wildlife of Wales.”