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Notice the different patterns of vegetation around you. Volcanic eruptions alter plant communities, destroying some, creating new habitat for others, and changing growth rates for those remaining. On the lava flow in front of you most soil has come from wind-blown material that collects in cracks and holds water. Consequently, soil and moisture vary dramatically across the flow. And, since seeds blow in, colonization is quite random. Classic succession with lichens breaking down rock into soil, and plants returning in predictable sequence is not occurring here.

As plants return to the barren landscape, so do the animals that use the plants for food and shelter. Many animals that live here are nocturnal. Some take shelter in the lava flow. Others blend in so well with their surroundings that they are difficult to spot. A careful observer may see evidence such as tracks or droppings.