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Individual Highlight

Mount St. Helens Plays a Central Role in the Field of Volcano Ecology

Photo of Field crew with the Pacific Northwest Research Station sample willow shrubs on the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens. Pyroclastic flows during the 1980 eruption removed all traces of the old-growth forest here, about four miles north of the volcano. USDA Forest ServiceField crew with the Pacific Northwest Research Station sample willow shrubs on the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens. Pyroclastic flows during the 1980 eruption removed all traces of the old-growth forest here, about four miles north of the volcano. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Ecological lessons and methods developed during studies on Mount St. Helens are now used to shape research and monitoring at other volcanic sites in Alaska, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and Russia. To continue advancing the field of volcano ecology, Forest Service scientists developed a database of information on eruption sites around the world. The database identifies which sites have been studied by ecologists, the focus of those studies, and will be used to identify gaps in knowledge.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Crisafulli, Charlie 
Research Location : Washington
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 767

Summary

Volcanoes are broadly distributed around the earth, with more than 1,500 of them currently active and dozens more erupting at any point in time. After eruptions, natural, agricultural, and social systems often areprofoundly disrupted and may remain so for centuries. The formal study of volcano ecology began in 1883 with the eruption of Krakatau in Indonesia. Since then, 404 volcanoes have erupted, but only 76 of these have been the focus of ecological inquiry, and most investigations have been limited in scope.

The breadth and duration of research,35 years and counting,on Mount St. Helens following the 1980 eruption puts this body of integrated research at the fore of volcano ecology. The methods and monitoring protocols developed there are now being adopted at volcanic sites around the world. To further the field of volcano ecology, scientists conducted a massive literature search to determine what is known about ecological responses to volcanism. The extensive bibliographic database, currently for research use only, will provide information on eruption impacts and responses. The identified gaps in knowledge about volcano-ecology interactions are a starting point for developing a research strategy that will lead to new insights and understanding about volcano ecology.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • U.S. Geological Survey-Cascades Volcano Observatory
  • USDA Agricultural Research Station
  • Universidad Austral de Chile