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Why are volcanoes so important?

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Quick Answer

Volcanoes are important for many reasons, including benefiting nearby plants with nutrient-rich ash, providing rare species with habitats that are inaccessible to humans and livestock, and enriching the atmosphere with gases, according to Oregon State University. The Earth's life, water and atmosphere would not exist without volcanoes.

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Full Answer

Volcanic gases released from vents since the Earth's formation are responsible for the atmosphere and oceans, which led to the evolution of life, according to the United States Geological Survey. Duke University states that while meteorites and comets also brought gases that helped build the atmosphere of the Earth, volcanic activity was probably the primary source of these gases.

Over 80 percent of the surface of the Earth comes from volcanic activity. Volcanic eruptions produce everything from plains and hills to mountains and plateaus. Volcanic deposits are also used as building materials. Basalt and diabase, both produced by volcanoes, are used by humans for many things, including concrete, roofing and the construction of nuclear reactors.

Volcanoes continue to play an important role by adding to the Earth's water supply and forming new islands. Volcanic eruptions may slow climate change by releasing aerosols that help block sunlight into the Earth's stratosphere, according to a Nature Geoscience study mentioned in Time magazine.

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