Mount St Helens Research Paper

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STUDenT PAge Mount St. Helens– A Story of Succession On May 18, 1980, the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington State exploded violently after two months of intense earthquake activity and intermittent weak eruptions, causing the worst volcanic disaster in the recorded history of the United States. This cataclysmic eruption and related events rank among the most significant geologic events in the United States during the 20th century. gray, ash-covered terrain. “It gave the impression of total lifelessness.” Dale studies ecological succession, or how an environment recovers after a major disturbance. She jokingly calls herself a “disturbed ecologist.” When it comes to studying devastation, she says, “Mount St. Helens was off…show more content…
But some were able to tolerate the extreme conditions and helped to pave the way for new colonizers. Winds brought light seeds and insects to the area, enabling them to enter the area and become established. Plants and insects attracted birds, deer, and elk from nearby areas. Heavier seeds “hitchhiked” on the feathers of birds and in elk droppings. Ponds and springs created by the eruption became the centers of life for survivors and colonizers. Today, many areas around the volcano still have a desert-like appearance, but the vast majority of plant and animal species that were found at Mount St. Helens before the 1980 eruption have returned. Some, like the Roosevelt elk, have returned in numbers that far exceed pre-1980 populations. Prairie lupine, a purple-blue wildflower, was also one of the first plants to grow on the barren land. Charlie Crisafulli, a research ecologist, arrived at Mount St. Helens when he was 22 years old. He and another ecologist were the first to spot a lone lupine…show more content…
The deep volcanic ash where he found the lupine held few nutrients. But lupines, like other plants in the pea family, are able to “fix” nitrogen, thus enriching the soil. Each lupine plant created a microhabitat that was hospitable to several other plant species. Besides enriching the soil with nitrogen, the lupines also physically trapped windblown debris and attracted insects. As the insects died on or around the plant, they enriched the soil with organic matter. Within a few years, the lupine patches became biological hotspots facilitating the growth of other plant species and attracting numerous insects, birds, and small mammals. The flourishing of life on the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens today may have begun with that lone lupine. Crisafulli said that it was the lupine wildflowers that taught him one of the key lessons of succession: the importance of

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