Plant Succession on the Mount St. Helens Debris-Avalanche Deposit and the Role of Non-native Species

  • Virginia H. Dale
  • Elsie M. Denton


The debris-avalanche deposit is one of the most severely disturbed areas created by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, with little survival of a few plant fragments, and primary succession mostly being initiated by the seeds dispersed onto the newly emplaced material. Vegetation changes on the debris-avalanche deposit during the first 30 years post eruption are analyzed, considering the role of non-native species and potential future vegetation patterns on the deposit. We found that the aerial distribution of largely non-native seeds on a subset of plots at Mount St. Helens in 1980 has had a pronounced and enduring effect on subsequent vegetation communities.


Avalanche Disturbance Erosion Mount St. Helens Native plants Non-native plants Seeds Succession Volcano Washington state 



Logistic support was provided by the USDA Forest Service, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and Weyerhaeuser Company. Over the 30 years of the study, fieldwork was conducted with the assistance of A.B. Adams, Wendy Adams, Charles Crisafulli, Ginny Dains, D. Donohue, Margaret Evans, Howard Haemmaerle, Brad Hensley, Charlie Hensley, Asa Holland, Robert Holland, Keith Kline, Jasmine Kuliashi, Ian Kulaishi, Bridgette Nyberg, Eric Smith, Mandy Tu, and John Wallace. Over the years of this study, the research was partially funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, Earthwatch, and The Center for Field Research of Belmont, Massachusetts. The University of Washington Herbarium was used to verify plant species identifications. Statisticians from Colorado State University helped with the analysis: Phil Turk advised on PERMANOVA and James R. zumBrunnen advised on the repeated measures analysis. Comments of Charles Crisafulli and two anonymous reviewers on an earlier draft were helpful. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the US Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.


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© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology & Evolutionary BiologyThe University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research ServiceEastern Oregon Agricultural Research CenterBurnsUSA

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