- Lava from Kilauea's eruption, which began May 3, finally reached the Pacific Ocean on May 20
- While flowing, the lava has destroyed homes in its path, but also covered tide pools and hot springs
- Scientists say that when lava meets water, its off-gas changes the acidity of water, making it more acidic
- Increased acidity of the water can be harmful to sensitive marine life, which could leave the area or stay away
- Lava sheds tiny particles of a glassy substance when it touches water, which can be harmful for fish with gills
- Animal shelters on Hawaii's Big Island have been inundated with pets people leave behind as they flee the lava
- Some locals have also taken to fostering abandoned livestock, in an attempt to save them from the lava
The Hawaii volcano eruption is expected to impact the state's marine and animal life for decades as the environment changes in the wake of the lava flow.
Kilauea, on Hawaii's Big Island, first start erupting on May 3, resulting in lava oozing over residential communities and heading towards the Pacific Ocean. The lava first met the ocean on May 20.
While the lava flow has received lots of attention for destroying neighborhoods, it has also been quietly covering Hawaii's famed tide pools, hot springs and coastal waters, changing the shoreline in the process.
Scientists say that the lava's impact on local marine life will be seen in major ways.
'On the shoreline, the differences will be night and day,' Frank Samsone, a professor of oceanography at UH Manoa, told KHON.
'What used to be a lush productive environment with hot pools and animals of all different kinds, it's going to be either a black sand beach or a cliff.'
In addition, Samson noted that when lava — which emits sulfur dioxide and hydriodic acid — mixes with water, it changes the acidity in the water. If the acidity changes enough, it could have a deleterious effect on sensitive marine life, which would either leave the area or stay away from it in the future.
In addition, when lava meets water, it sheds tiny, glassy particles into the water, which Samsone said would be harmful when passing through animals with gills.
Samsone said that it could take hundreds of years for the marine life to return to the state it was in prior to the volcano eruption.
In the meantime, he said, it's likely that more deep water animals will be seen along the coast, in place of the traditional inshore, coastal varieties that the Kapoho area is known for.
In addition, 'If you kept a careful eye, you would see the black sand beaches coming and going maybe they would migrate down the coast,' Samsone said.
The volcano eruption isn't all bad news for marine life, however.
Ash blocks the sun and causes ocean temperatures to fall, which creates ideal growth conditions in the ocean, as well as supplying nutrients on the ocean surface, International Pacific Researcher Megumi Chikamoto told KHON.
Meanwhile, on land, as people flee from the lava's path, they're often forced to leave behind both pets and livestock, which are now said to be scattered around the Big Island's animal shelters, sanctuaries and foster homes.
Once, a litter of puppies was discovered in a box near the side of the highway close to the lava zone.
Kathy Buono, of Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary, in Kurtistown, Hawaii, said that the shelter has been inundated with household pets that their owners were unable to flee with.
'Unfortunately, a lot of people are dumping their animals, so we're getting a lot of abandoned and surrendered animals as well,' Buono told KITV.
She added that the shelter has been on the receiving end of non-stop calls from 'people crying on the phone' seeking help for their beloved animals. 'It's very emotional for them,' Buono said.
Good Samaritans have been known to rescue fleeing neighbors' livestock as well, lest they be covered by the lava.
Hawaii's Civil Defense is now said to be working with the Hawaii Fire Department to arrange air rescues and answer calls for animal rescues.
The AP reported Friday that scientists said the lava flow has created nearly a mile of new land and that there is no way of knowing when the eruption will end or if more lava-spewing vents will open. More than 600 homes in the lava's path have been destroyed so far.