The New Spirit Lake: Changes to Hydrology, Nutrient Cycling, and Biological Productivity

  • James E. Gawel
  • Charles M. Crisafulli
  • Rich Miller


Spirit Lake was changed biologically, chemically, and physically by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and the concurrent landslide that essentially buried the old lake and created a new one in its place. Recent changes to the surrounding watershed, spurred by ever-increasing regrowth of terrestrial vegetation, continue to alter the biogeochemistry of Spirit Lake. Here the authors outline over a decade of work developing a hydrologic and nutrient model for the lake and discuss preliminary work to elucidate the ecological role of the floating logs in Spirit Lake.


Mount St. Helens Volcanic disturbance Lake Nutrient Mass balance model Hydrology Aquatic macrophytes Plankton Sediments Amphibians Fish 



The authors would like to thank all those students and staff members from University of Washington Tacoma and Bellarmine High School who put in so much effort from 2005 to 2014 to make this work possible: from UWT, Joe Chynoweth, Cameron Marshall, Ashley Datema, Bridget Mason, Heather Jennings, Nicole Butcher, Tiffany Wax, Laura Alskog, Danielle Dahlquist, Erika Klein, Katie Royer, Chelsie Strowbridge, Terri Hurlbut, Amy Leslie, Shantelle Reamer, Julie Palumbo, Jessica West, Brenda LeMay, Jessica Asplund, and Mindy Roberts; from Bellarmine High School, Ron Nielsen, Dave DeGroot, Meghan Blanchet, AJ Joseph, Sara Scott, Conor Flannigan, Jane Manley, Maya Cates-Carney, and Heidi Hirsh. We were also aided by many field crew members working for the US Forest Service at Mount St. Helens. A special thanks to Chuck Neudorf for his help with GIS. This work was supported by funding from the UWT Founders Endowment, the UWT School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Research and Teaching Fund, and the Mountaineers Foundation.


Dimictic (adj)

A lake having a pattern of stratification in which it undergoes two periods of mixing, one in the spring and one in the autumn.

Epilimnion (adj epilimnetic)

The upper layer of a lake during thermal stratification, characterized by well-mixed, well-illuminated warmer water.

Eutrophic (adj)

The condition of water being rich in plant nutrients and the results of this condition.

Hypereutrophic (adj)

The condition of water being extremely productive, with abundant nutrients and very high primary producer biomass.

Hypolimnion (adj hypolimnetic)

The poorly illuminated lower region of a stratified lake, characterized by denser, colder water protected from wind action; lies below the metalimnion.

Mesotrophic (adj)

The condition of water being only moderately rich in plant nutrients and the results of this condition.

Metalimnion (n)

The central layer of a stratified lake between the epilimnion and the hypolimnion, characterized by rapid temperature change with depth; the region where the thermocline is found.

Nauplii (n pl), nauplius (sing)

The earliest free-living stage in the development of most crustaceans, including Copepoda.

Oligotrophic (adj)

The condition of water being poor in plant nutrients and the results of this condition.

Secchi depth (n)

A measure of water clarity equal to the mean depth of the point where a weighted black and white checkered disk (20 cm in diameter) disappears when viewed from the shady side of a vessel and that point where it reappears upon raising it after it has been lowered beyond visibility.

Thermocline (n)

The plane of maximum rate of decrease of temperature with respect to depth.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Gawel
    • 1
  • Charles M. Crisafulli
    • 2
  • Rich Miller
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences and Studies, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and SciencesUniversity of Washington TacomaTacomaUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationMount St. Helens National Volcanic MonumentAmboyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Science and ManagementPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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