As with most of the phenomena we call natural disasters, we benefit as well as suffer from volcanoes.
One major positive result of a volcanic eruption is soil enrichment. When lava decays and crumbles, nutrients—such as phosphate, calcium, and potash—leach, or seep, into the ground.
The porous nature of volcanic debris provides good drainage. Years after an eruption, lush forests, crops, and gardens can grow on the previously barren land.
Volcanoes are important valves through which Earth’s interior pressure escapes. Without this release, pressure might build up to an unbearable limit, which could result in a far more destructive explosion.
Volcanic heat and activity underground have a part in the formation of precious gems and metals. The shifts in Earth’s surface that accompany volcanoes help to bring these riches to the surface.
Scientifically, volcanoes teach us a great deal about Earth: its temperature, pressure, and substance. We have also gained a greater understanding of tectonic plate movement by watching volcanic activity.
Since volcanoes played an important role in the formation of our ocean and atmosphere—two critical factors for life’s creation and survival—they may hold answers to how life began.