Mount St. Helens: 1980-2020

Authors: Lisa Harrington*, Kansas State University
Topics: Mountain Environments, Biogeography, Earth Science
Keywords: Mount St. Helens, environmental change, repeat photography, resilience, disturbance
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Mount St. Helens, in southern Washington State, erupted violently on May 18, 1980, following over 120 years of dormancy. The lateral blast caused widespread impacts on the biophysical environment of the mountain and surrounding areas. Since that time, ecological change has proceeded, with species reestablishment and evolving landscapes. Repeat photography illustrates aspects of the evolving conditions following the eruption, with slow initial vegetation recolonization during the first ten years, rapid visual change circa 10-20 years post-eruption, and continued change in the most recent decades. Exceptions include locations affected by flood and mass wasting events. Ground-level repeat photography at a number of points around the mountain, particularly of the south-side lahar, lahar-affected streams, and blow-down and scorch zones to the east and northeast of the volcano, was begun in 1982 and has continued through 2020. Over 40 years, the combination of natural regrowth in National Volcanic Monument areas and human-accelerated revegetation in surrounding zones has created a far different landscape in what was initially considered to be a nearly permanently altered environment. Repeat photography illustrates the sometimes surprising resiliency of ecosystems following dramatic large-scale disturbance.

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