1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens

Cascade Range, Washington; May 18, 1980

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Basic Summary

The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens was the most destructive one in US history as well as the must studied one. A 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit the volcano causing it to erupt, billowing a huge cloud of, and devastating the northern flank of the mountain. 57 people died and the damage costs exceeded $1.1 billion. Most of the wildlife was also wiped away immediately.
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The fish and amphibians were killed off by the pyroclastic flow. Because sunlight couldn’t get through the debris filled water, algae died. Mammals living within the Blast Zone were killed immediately- deer, elk, coyotes, mountain lions and goats, and smaller animals- hares, squirrels and more. Beavers died as mudflows swept their dams. Millions of insects and many birds were also killed in large numbers along with destroying hatcheries containing baby salmon. Millions of trees in forests were flattened, destroying the habitat for many organisms.

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The recovery of life was a slow, amazing process...

After 3 months of the eruption, signs of freshly turned Earth appeared the work of the Northern Pocket Gopher, which hibernated underground. As these creatures moved around, they moved around a special fungus that helped provide plants with nitrogen. The mounds of soil became breeding grounds for new trees. Soon, a Prairie Lupine was found thriving because of a special root structure. The pioneering species relied on bacteria to provide it nitrogen in return for simple sugars. The nutrients added to the soil by the lupine allowed other plants to grow. Elk and deer are starting to wander in looking for food, collapsing the gopher and other animal’s tunnels. Soon after an explosion of bacteria in Spirit Lake consumed all the oxygen, the debris and ash in the lake started to clear out. Phytoplankton brought in by birds and the wind started to grow because of the sunlight, and produced oxygen. Amphibians wandered in to the lake from the collapsed tunnels and the lake is now teeming with fish brought by fisherman.

Scientists were amazed by the ecological succession and used the eruption as an opportunity to study the ecosystem.

Ecosytem: Abiotic

The water in Spirit Lake and other rivers became contaminated and wasn’t able to adeptly hold any organisms.

Also, the complete formation of the Volcano was changed due to landslides and the unusual growth of the mountain, pushing out rocks. Any rocks and other boulder type structures were also physically changed.

Also, because of the fumes and ash released, the atmosphere and climate was altered for a while.
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Includes long term impacts and similar volcanoes.
Includes the impacts on food and water, humans, and energy.