Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 1988, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (2): 152-158.

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The Volcano of Mt. St. Helens and its Alpine Vegetation

Yang Fu-tun, L. C. Bliss   

  • Online:1988-02-10 Published:1988-02-10
  • Contact: Zhang Xin-shi

Abstract: Mt. St. Helens is an active volcano on the western flank of the Cascade: range in the southwestern Washington State, USA. It is located at lat. 46˚00′—46˚30′N, long 121˚52′—122˚40′W. We had investigated the alpine vegetation at Pine Creek, Butte Camp on Mt. St. Helens for three times, totaling ten days during August and September of 1983.The volcano had erupted sending out much pyroclastic, pumice and lava, which devdstated the vegetation around the crater. They not only mechanically destroyed plants tissue, but also buried entirely or partly of the plants.The radiant heat from the volcanic eruption caused the melting of ice and snow, creating huge mudflows, which destroyed and buried vegetation. The high temperture from direct radiant heat incinerated and scorched all the plants. On the other hand, the higher the elevation is, the stronger the wind and the lower the temperture; also snow was present on the alpine range, and this provided a lee for plants, and consequently some plants survived, and new ones grow out of the ground. The alpine vegetation on Mt. St. Helens bears both the characteristic of alpine plants and the brand of volcanic activities: vegetation is sparse, species composition of plants limited, structure of community simple, production low and vegetation propagation being the main type of vegetative reproduction.The different types of alpine vegetation grow in different habitats: The community of Luekea pectinata grow in places covered by ice and snow; the community of Polygonum newberryi, Eriogonum pyroleafolium in localities covered by mudflow; the community of Phyllodace empetriformis on slopes of steep rocks and the community of grasses and sedges on low hills and plains. These are the four main communities on Mt. St. Helens. The recovery and succession of the alpine vegetation has been discussed. There are two types of succession, the primary and the secodary, with the secondary being the main one.Finally, the paper has analysed the reason why no forest occurs, on Mt. St. Helens. We think that it is a result of the active period of the volcano and that the climate conditions are favouable for forest. Also, we have suggested that some herbaceous plants be sown as soon as possible for they can accelerate the recovery of vegetation, and prevent the runoff of soil and water.

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