Perception of a chronic volcanic hazard: persistent degassing at Masaya volcano

van Manen, Saskia M. (2014). Perception of a chronic volcanic hazard: persistent degassing at Masaya volcano. Journal of Applied Volcanology, 3(1), article no. 9.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13617-014-0009-3

Abstract

This study takes a combined qualitative and quantitative approach to examining the chronic hazard posed by persistent degassing at Masaya volcano, Nicaragua. The gas is a highly salient threat in communities surrounding Masaya volcano, with the elevated salience level of his invisible hazard deriving from the highly perceptible impacts of the degassing; these include individual and material impacts such as increased prevalence of self-reported respiratory disease and decreased crop diversification and productivity. Qualitative results concur with findings from a quantitative assessment of ambient SO2 exposure using diffusion tubes: the current level of SO2 degassing far exceeds international guideline values, making it a likely cause of adverse health effects for the general population. Conversely contaminant levels of heavy and toxic metals in foodstuffs were found to be below international standards. A community-based integrated hazard mitigation approach identified by this research is the cultivation of crops, particularly pineapple (Ananas comosus) and pitaya (Hylocereus sp.), that are better able to withstand the local environmental conditions (e.g. increased atmospheric SO2 and acid gas deposition). Despite this, little is known regarding disaster response and risk reduction at the community level and the gas hazard is largely overlooked. This shows large scope for increasing resilience in collaboration with the community, through for example the development of community-level risk management committees, improvement and implementation of (gas) mitigation strategies and disaster preparedness approaches. By reducing the impacts of the chronic hazard posed by persistent volcanic degassing, resilience to acute hazards is also likely to improve.

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