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Cascade Range southwestern Washington state

Mount Saint Helens is a volcanic peak situated in the Cascade Range southwestern Washington state. The mountain remained dormant from 1857 until 1980 when it erupted in one of the most violent volcanoes in North America. On may 18 1980 there was release of 24 megatons of thermal energy. The eruption of Mt. ST Helens had great impact to the ecosystem. The eruption made much destruction but still it created an entirely new ecosystem. There was the creation of more that one hundred and thirty ponds at the foot of the volcano. The animals, which lived around the volcano, did not just move to where they lived but they have taken new territory.

There are new habitats, which are available for the animals. Life took another new starting point after the eruption. The ash which was released during the eruption impounded seeps and streams and the depression between them. This led to creation of warm, shallow pans of water, which dry during the summer. The evidence of the destruction that took place is seen everywhere. There are hills of volcanic material, which are too steep for any reforestation to take place. The hills act as reminders of the day the volcanic eruption took place (Sinsabaugh & Findlay pg 89-92).

The eruption of Mt St. Helens took place on May 18 1980. There were lose of life by animals and people. It is estimated that within a span of three minutes the blast had blown down and scorched two thirty square miles of the forest. It is the most economically destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States of America. The ash blew from the crater spewing grit more than 15 miles up into the air. The wind, which blew, carried the ash towards the east side across the country on Spokane, Yakima, and on the west parts of Montana.

For human beings this was a destructive event but on the case of habitat, it was a spouting pint of new species (Swanson & Swanson pg 244-246). The eruption created new pot habitat. There arose new community of frogs, toads, salamanders from the volcanic ashes. There was also the decrease of some population of some other animal species in the area. For example, the killer fungus, which plagued on frogs were eliminated. Population of some predators also have not yet returned in the area giving animals such as the toads, salamander and the frogs chance of increasing in the population.

During the eruption, there was the collapse of the northern flank of St Helens. The collapse mixed with ice, snow and water. This leads to the creation of volcanic mudflows. The volcanic mudflows flowed many miles down leading to destruction of lumber camps and bridges. The mudflow carried most of the top solid where vegetation thrived. As a result of this erosion, it has been difficult for effective reforestation to take place along the paths where the mudflow passed. There are no much vegetation in the area (Molina pg 89-90). This eruption ejected more than 0.

68 cubic miles of material, which lead to the removal of the north side of the mountain. This also led to reduction of Mt Helen’s height by almost one thousand three hundred feet, which left a crater of about two miles wide and half miles deep. This affected lives of people and a lot of vegetation. The area where the crater was created cannot be reforested because the crater is too deep for vegetation to survive. This changed the ecosystem of the forest because many animals, which lived on the trees, had to shift to other areas while some of them were eliminated.

Historically the mountain had four extended periods of eruptions interspersed by dormant periods. The area along the mountain was mostly inhabited by Native Americans. The mountain had been surrounded by forest of coniferous trees. There was also many lakes that surrounded the mountain before the blast. The volcanic eruption destroyed the whole forest leaving burned tree trunks all felled looking in the same direction. It is estimated that the amount of timber that was destroyed would build about three hundred thousand two bed roomed homes. (Walker, pg 121-122).

There was great erosion during the volcanic eruption as a result of the landslides, hot pumice ice ash flows and mud flows. The erosion process has been dominated by sheet flooding and channeled flow of water. There has been jetting steam from buried water and ice, which is found under hot pumice leading to development of rills and gullies, which are over one hundred and twenty five feet deep (Walker, pg 254-256). These are some of the hindrances to the growth of trees in the area. Reforestation is difficult to take place in such kind of terrains, which is not conducive for any plant or animal survival.

The natural disturbances that occurred during the eruption created a complex mosaic of the disturbed area. The effects of the disturbance are not evenly distributed. The eruption on Mt Helens created large disturbances for example, debris avalanche, mudflows, winds of hot gases and ejected volcanic rock and ash. The events, which occurred, interacted with a diverse landscape to create complex mosaic of the disturbance zone, which covered hundred square miles. The disturbance created areas where there was total destruction. The season where the eruption occurred influenced the survival and recovery.

This is because it occurred during the spring morning when the plant buds had not yet opened. The patches off ice and snow, which were available, gave protection to some organisms. Some of the nocturnal animals had also returned to their underground habitats. If in case the eruption occurred during the summers, there could have been more destruction of plants and animals. However when the eruption occurred most of the sea animals such as the pacific salmon and the steelhead trout were at the sea when the eruption happened.

Other animals survived because they returned to the streams of the mountain the conditions of the streams had improved so most of the sea animals were not affected by the volcanic eruption (Sinsabaugh & Findlay pg 89-92). This was the same case with many birds because most of them had not returned to their summer nesting grounds when the volcano erupted. Therefore, most of the birds were not affected by the immediate repercussion of the eruption. The mechanism of Mount St Helens eruption was similar to those of other eruptions or disturbances.

This means that the heat, which was produced during the eruption, was almost similar to that of wild fires, the wind was almost similar to that of hurricanes and the mudflows were capable to the ones caused by rain. Therefore, the eruptions have more similar ecological consequences like those of other disturbances, which occur. The living and the dead organisms, which were left after the volcanic eruption, enhanced the recovery at Mount Helens. Those plants, animals and fungi served many ecological functions.

For example, plants provided food and habitat, animals acted as preys and as predators. This allowed ecosystem cycle to continue and this made it easier for the species, which were left to colonize the landscape. Mt Helens acted as an example that even in such kind of disturbed environment it is possible for organisms to survive. This act as a challenge to the theory, which holds that colonization can 0nly, happen in areas outside the disturbed are (Walker, pg 121-122). Biological response to the volcanic eruption was rapid.

This was enhanced as a result of the biological legacies, presence of volcanic deposits that were unconsolidated where animals and plants could survive, there were also diverse source population which surrounded the volcanic eruption area and also as a result of moist climate which had plenty of rain which encouraged growth of plants. The new volcanic deposit, which arose as a result of the new volcanic erosion, provided fertile soils where plants could sprout. Therefore, erosion out of the volcanic eruption had positive impacts to the survival of plants.

The ecosystem also become e enriched and at the same time impoverished with nutrients by the volcanic eruption. Life in most of the lakes multiplied rapidly. In a span of six months, most of the lakes had returned to conditions, which is the same as a typical Cascade Range lakes. However, terrestrial ecosystem was affected negatively. The volcanic ash, which covered the ground, had low levels of biological productivity. The productivities of the soils is still below that of mature forests. The eruption leads to destruction of ninety square miles of forest. However, lake and ponds habitat increased rapidly (Walker, pg 254-256).

Work cited Molina Randy. Molina Managing Forest Ecosystems to Conserve Fungus Diversity and Sustain Wild Mushroom Harvests, DIANE Publishing, 1998. Sinsabaugh Robert & Findlay Stuart . Aquatic ecosystems: interactivity of dissolved organic matter, New York, Academic Press, 2003. Swanson Frederick& Swanson John. Ecological responses to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, New York, Springer, 2005. Walker Lawrence. Ecosystems of disturbed ground, Vol 16, Elsevier, 1999. Walker Lawrence. Primary succession and ecosystem rehabilitation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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