Sample Geology Essay Paper on The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

            Hawaii volcanoes national park truly is a place that allows firsthand experience of geology. It is characterized by dynamic processes such as mass wasting, volcanism and changes of landscape in a short period of time. The geology display within the park provides a foundation to different forms of ecosystems thus providing valuable research opportunities for scientists. The park is bound on the protection of its ecosystems with help from the state and international agencies. The volcanic nature of the park also leads to expansion of land covered after the hot lava has cooled. This provides a good climate and good soils for growth of ecosystems such as plants and animals. Apart from being a geological site, the park is also a tourist attraction site due to its various native species, and features formed from volcanic eruptions.

Location and Size of the park

            TheHawaii volcanoes Nationa Park is located on the southern part of the Hawaii island in the Hawaii state of the United States. It is located in the southwest side of Hilo and was established in 1961. It was formaly known as the Hawaii national Park which was established in 1916.  It lies on a 505 square miles area. This expanse includes the Kahuka ranch acquired in 2003 and covers 115,778 acres of land. It includes the suimmits of Kilauea and Mauna Loa which are to of the mostactive volcanic mountains on earth. In 1987, this park was disignated a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Mauna Loa erupted in 1984 while Kilauea has erupted 30 times within the last four years. These two mountains make the park a unique site since they offer safe volcanic eruptions viewing for tourists and residents of the island. Being the larges of the Hawaiian islands, the Hawaii Island has active volcanism today (Feinstein 45).

                       Mauna Loa is considered the largest volcano on earth and is located on the islands south-central region. From the ocean bottom, it extends about 5km upwards and rises to 4.2 km towards an elevation of 13,677 feet above the sea level (Feinstein 67). Its summit is called Caldera and it has a diameter of 3 by 5km and is 600 feet deep. Since it has been active, it displays eruptions from both the fissures in the flanks and its caldera. The most recent eruption in 1984 was a result of earth quake activity occurring beneath the volcano.  Kilauea is Hawaii’s youngest volcanoes and lies east of Mauna Loa. It is also considered the most active volcano on earth.  While Mauna Loa covers half of the island, Kilauea covers a seventh and rises to about 1,250 meters above the sea level. Like Mauna Loa, it is a shield volcano and the summit caldera is almost the same size though not as deep. The two mountains provided evidence for the movement of tectonic plates due to their active nature.

                                                Location of the park on the Map of Hawaii

Geologic location

            The island of Hawaii is home to five major shield volcanoes which keep increasing the age of the island, erosion degree, and subsidence into the sea. “These volcanoes include Kilauea Mauna Loa(located in the park) Mauna Kea, Kohala, Hualalai” (Feinstein 65). The summits of the Kilauea and Mauna Loa are inclusive of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  The landscape within the park includes fresh lava flow areas, Mauna Loas’ gentle slopes, Kilauea crater, and coastal areas whereby the flows of basalt forming broad, sloping terraces that separate sheltered coves running along the shores several meters below. Sparse beach areas are inclusive of supratidal accumulations of different sands including olivine green sand, black sand, and other coralline sediments from marine high stands and storms. Some of the natural features within the island include ephemeral streams, lava-inundated landscapes, cinder cones and craters, fresh volcanic deposits and a variety of native Hawaiian ecosystems.

                                 Map of the geographical location

Other Major Geologic attractions

                       Apart from the two active volcanic mountains, the park is also home to various geological attractions. It stretches from sea level towards the summit of Mauna Loa and beyond the end of that road lies a wilderness area known as the Mauna Loa wilderness. Here, hikers and tourists experience rough lava trails as they endure freezing nights. The volcanic wonders within this site include cinder cones, barren lava which has been twisted into scary shapes, and gaping pits. On the other hand, Kilauea provides easier accessibility to a bigger variety of cultural sites and scenery (Natural Resources Program Center 20). On the slopes of this mountain, lava that has been spewed out recently flows through the lush green rain forest. This provides a natural laboratory for ecological changes because of the fact that it displays all forest regeneration stages from early growth of lichens to a dense forest. On the windward side of its summit, the rainforest paves way to the stark and windswept desert located on the southwestern slope. This desert is known as the Ka’ū desert.

                       The volcanic topology nature of the park and the extreme rainfall created by moisture from the trade winds offers support for a wide variety of habitats and life zones. The park is home to seven different ecological life zones. These include; lowland, seacoast, rainforest, mid-elevation woodland, subalpine and alpine/Aeolian, and upland forest and woodland zones. It is considered one of the few natural areas remaining in Hawaii that help in the protection of contagious habitat. The park also houses intriguing species of plants. Due to the warm and wet climate caused by the mountains, clay soil has become a good host to indigenous species within the boundaries of the park. The park has protected the native species by putting a fence around the park borders. This helps in keeping off feral pigs as they take other measures towards eradicating invasive weeds which attack the defenseless intriguing plants. This has led to the park being named as a World Heritage site and an international biosphere (Natural Resources Program Center 21). It is also surrounded by native residents who protect the nature around their vicinity.

                       The park also has lava-tube caves underlying many areas. Some of the larger tubes include the famous Kaūmana lava tube and the lengthy Kazumura lava tube. The park hosts a large number of caves and not all are named. Some of the named caves include; Ica cave, Thurston’s Tube, skylight cave, Mauna Iki tube, and ‘Āinahou Ranch Cave among others. The caves also contain many different unique features that add to the geological attraction of the park. Such features include; the ancient burial chambers of Hawaii, speleothems, petroglyphs, artifacts, and lava stalagmites. Almost all large caves which are older than 200 years contain cultural resources which are of great archeological importance.

                                                   Map of the Park

Origin of the park(Tectonic history)

                       The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park originated as a result of 70 million years’ worth of volcanic activity. Hawaii is a special place because it is caused by a ‘hot spot’. A geologic hotspot could be described as an area situated in the middle of crustal plate which holds the base for volcanism. This is because like most islands, it lays on tectonic plate boundaries (Natural Resources Program Center 36). The pacific plate is the largest crustal plate known to mankind and it lies under the Hawaii Island right in the middle. The plate moved towards the northwest across the hot point creating new volcanoes and island. Being the home of the park, Hawaii is the youngest of the islands. Volcanoes should be considered the building factors surrounding the Hawaiian Island chain.

                       Since both mountains within the vicinity of the park are still active, they keep adding to the total landmass covered by the park. Eruptions from these mountains result into fluid rivers of molten lava.  Though the lava could destroy forests and other habitats when hot, it forms a layer above the destructions upon cooling hence paving way for more land which could be considered more fertile for growth of rain forests (Levin 176). This means that the land keeps expanding. The layers provide a landscape that could be considered barren and it serves as a foundation base layer from which life evolves. Different species of plants grew while animals travelled across the pacific and some survived the harsh conditions thus creating a successful adaptation in an environment that prospered eventually. When the first humans arrived, they accentuated the habitual formation within the park since they brought along more plants and animals. This led to creation of diversity and the creation of the park which was considered a reserve for the natural setting.

Historical Geology

                       The park is also characterized by several historical features that support its geology. Such include the lava tree mold located on the Mauna Loa road. The road leads towards a series of historical tree molds formed when lava flowed through the deep tropical forest. Since the trees were too wet to burn, the lava cooled around the trunks and as the trees rotted, the unusual molds were formed. The part also has an area covered by petroglyphs drawn by the early Hawaiians (Feinstein 42). These diagrams are curved into lava flows that occurred within the earlier years and they include human figures.

Rocks and Minerals

                       Some of the rocks found within the park include ‘a‘ā Lava which is aHawaiian term that refers to lava flows characterized by rough rubbly surface which is composed of clinkers. Clinkers refer to broken lava blocks which occur as a result of volcanic eruptions.  The clinker nature of the rock covers a big dense core hence protecting the most active part of the flow which lies underneath. The clinkers are then carried down the slope by the lava as it flows. They are deposited in the core. Other clinkers are buried by the flow after cooling. Thistherefore formsa layer of lava remains covering both the upper and lower part of the flow. This leads to the formation of`a`a lava (Feinstein 78).

                       Volcanic ash is also another product of mineral, rock, and volcanic glass fragments. It might not be as fluffy as the normal ash because it is denser and does not dissolve in water. This is normally generated as a result of volatile eruptions which fragment solid rocks and aggressivelyisolates magma into smaller pieces. Expanding steam and other volcanic gases blast the ash into the air which rises very fast to form an eruption column that towers directly above the volcano. Pele’s tears are also rocks that can be found within the park. Bits of molten lava freezeas a result of rapid cooling. This leads to the formation of glasslike particles normally shaped as either spheres or tears. They are named after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes known as Pele. The reticulate is basaltic pumice also found within the park. This is a beautiful rock whose cell walls characterized by gas bubbles bursts forming a honey-comb like structure. It might be less dense than pumice but it does not float in water due to the open bubbles. It is also known as limu.

Environmental issues

                       Being a habitat for different species of plants and animals, the park also experiences environmental problems. There are more than 200 species of plants growing in Hawaii. Most are classified as invasive or noxious weed due to their destructive nature.  Most of these plants were introduced to the island through human activities like ranching yet they found their way into the national park (Levin 238). The park is a home for native species meaning that the invasive plants cause grievous harm to their existence. Such invasive plants include South American and African grasses which were introduced to improve cattle and sheep grazing (Natural Resources Program Center 34). 

                       Since grazing is an important practice within the island, the grass remains a threat to the park. The strong winds blowing through the island could be considered the pollination agents for seeds of invasive grasses such as molasses grass. This grass creates a fire resistant mat which spreads along the vegetation. While spreading, it tends to smother native species along its path is path. These characteristics prove to be helpful in cattle grazing but their invasive nature remains harmful to the parks native species. The park is characterized by invasive grasses that respond well to fire and end up thriving in the aftermath. This makes it difficult for the park to protect its species (Natural Resources Program Center 56).

                       Apart from the grass, other invasive plants have invaded the park in the past years to date. Such includes trees, shrubs, vines which include the fire tree and the banana poka. The banana poka is a plant that was cultivated elsewhere and imported into Hawaii for its edible fruits. It is a high climbing vine that has snowy pink flowers (Levin 240). The seeds of this plant are spread in the droppings of various animals within the island making it a well-established plant within the canopy forests in Hawaii volcanoes. In case of death or tress falling in the forest, this plant possesses the ability to quickly move canopy gaps where it vigorously grows.

                       The control of invasive species proves to be a costly and complicated matter for the park. Permanent eradication would be the best solution but it is an unrealistic goal. the park service together with the state, federal, and international agencies therefore, try to keep them from spreading into new areas. This is because they could get completely out of hand. Control measures within the park include herbicide spraying, hand removal, and using biological controls (Natural Resources Program Center 46). Even though the park managers hesitate in using chemical methods it has long been an unavoidable measure in the battle against invasive grasses. Use of chemicals however requires to be done of a carefully controlled basis because it could pose environmental hazards.

                       In conclusion, the ecological factors discussed within the paper leave a lot to be desired. As the park continues growing in size, they face various problems which could be fatal to the historical factors around. The invading species are considered a necessary evil since they have benefited the grazing culture of the residents since the time of settlement. This shows that the park management needs to find a way that would be beneficial to both the native species and the residents who practice cattle grazing. Apart from the invasive plants problem, the Hawaii Volcanoes National park holds many desirable features which are geologically and economically important.

Works Cited

Natural Resources Program Center.“Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Geologic               Resources Inventory Report.2009. National Park Service U.S Department of the      Interior.Accessed from            file:///C:/Users/sheila%20G/Downloads/havo_gri_rpt_body_print%20(1).pdf

Feinstein, Stephen. Hawaiì Volcanoes National Park: Adventure, Explore, Discover.           Berkeley Heights, NJ: MyReportLinks.com Books, 2009. Print.

Penisten, John. Hawaii Travel Adventures. West Palm Beach: Hunter Pub, 2009. Internet           Resource.

Levin, Harold L. The Earth Through Time. Hoboken, N.J: J. Wiley, 2010. Print.

Foxcroft, Llewellyn C, Petr Pyšek, David M. Richardson, and Piero Genovesi. Plant Invasions in Protected Areas: Patterns, Problems and Challenges. Dordrecht: Springer, 2013. Internet resource.