Legacies of Recovery
Viewing Mount St. Helens within the blast zone from Johnson Ridge, which was slightly overtopped by the massive landslide and further scoured clean down to bare rock and subsoil and partially buried by the over 500 mile per hour lateral blast of ash and pumiceous tephra during the May 18, 1980 eruption event.
Almost immediately after the blast life found a way to begin reclaiming the disturbed landscape, challenging and requiring revision of long-held ecological theories about how succession and recovery from catastrophic disturbance occurs.
Ironically, life wasn't wiped out as was presumed in such volcanic disturbances, and it wasn't the largest, tallest, or strongest majestic organisms that survived. Instead it was the smallest of plants and animals that made it through the catastrophe to start the ecological rebuilding process.
These biological legacies as studied within the blast zone form the basis by which ecologists worldwide now better appreciate the complexity of natural succession and ecological recovery.
Wildflowers now cover much of the landscape, and various lupine species (Lupinus spp.) such as that in the foreground of this shot were amongst the first to colonize the pumice and ash fields, fixing nitrogen and catalyzing the soil building process that increased the capacity of the land to suport others species that later began colonizing such as alpine hawkweed, scarlet paintbrush and various deciduous trees and shrubs, all of which in turn have supported various arthropods and higher vertebrates.
This is a six image focus-stacked composite to achieve maximum depth of field from less than one foot to infinity.
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