, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 312–324 | Cite as

Linking community and ecosystem development on Mount St. Helens

  • Richard A. Gill
  • Jennifer A. Boie
  • John G. Bishop
  • Lindsay Larsen
  • Jennifer L. Apple
  • R. David Evans
Ecosystem Ecology


In the two decades following the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State, the N2-fixing colonizer Lupinus lepidus is associated with striking heterogeneity in plant community and soil development. We report on differences in nutrient availability and plant tissue chemistry between older, dense patches (core) of L. lepidus and more recently established low density patches (edge). In addition, we conducted a factorial nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization experiment in core patches to examine the degree of N and P limitation in early primary succession. We found that there were no significant differences in N or P availability between core and edge L. lepidus patches during the dry summer months, although nutrient availability is very low across the landscape. In the high density patches we found lower tissue N content and higher fiber content in L. lepidus tissue than in the younger edge patches. The addition of nutrients substantially altered plant community composition, with N addition causing an increase in other forb biomass and a corresponding competition-induced decline in L. lepidus biomass. The majority of the positive biomass response came from Hypochaeris radicata. In the second year of the fertilization experiment, the addition of N significantly increased total community biomass while L. lepidus biomass declined by more than 50%. The response of every species other than L. lepidus to N additions suggests that N may be the macronutrient most limiting plant production on Mount St. Helens but that the gains in productivity were somewhat offset by a decline of the dominant species. By the third year of the experiment, L. lepidus began to increase in abundance with P addition. This result suggests co-limitation of the community by N and P.


Fertilization Lupinus lepidus Nitrogen Phosphorus Primary succession 



This research supported by NSF grant DEB-0089843 and by a Washington State University New Faculty Seed Grant. The authors thank L. Rossmell, J. Seeds, B. Jessop, E. Marshall, J.R. Jackson, W. Jessop, and S. Tullis for field assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Gill
    • 1
  • Jennifer A. Boie
    • 1
  • John G. Bishop
    • 2
  • Lindsay Larsen
    • 2
  • Jennifer L. Apple
    • 2
  • R. David Evans
    • 3
  1. 1.Program in Environmental Science and Regional PlanningWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesWashington State University VancouverVancouverUSA
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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