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    Author(s): Rhonda MazzaCharlie Crisafulli
    Date: 2016
    Source: Science Findings 190. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p.
    Publication Series: Science Findings
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (5.0 MB)


    Mount St. Helens’ explosive eruption on May 18, 1980, was a pivotal moment in the field of disturbance ecology. The subsequent sustained, integrated research effort has shaped the development of volcano ecology, an emerging field of focused research. Excessive heat, burial, and impact force are some of the disturbance mechanisms following an eruption. They are also mechanisms of other, nonvolcanic disturbances. Studying ecosystem response to these disturbances across the gradient of disturbance intensity created by the 1980 eruption has revealed lessons relevant to the process of succession in Pacific Northwest forests and to other disturbed areas.

    Charlie Crisafulli, an ecologist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, has worked on Mount St. Helens for the past 36 years. He and colleagues recently developed a database that provides information on eruption sites around the world. They compiled the literature on all studies related to volcano ecology published between 1883 and 2015. This is enabling them to identify universal lessons on ecosystem response to disturbance versus lessons specific to the Mount St. Helen’s eruption and setting.

    An effort is underway to archive the hundreds of thousands of data collected from Mount St. Helens and to preserve biological samples at museums around the country, ensuring they will be accessible to future generations of researchers.

    Publication Notes

    • Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Mazza, Rhonda; Crisafulli, Charlie. 2016. Volcano ecology: flourishing on the flanks of Mount St. Helens. Science Findings 190. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p.


    Mount St Helens, volcano ecology

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