A 4.2 magnitude earthquake combined with lava flows that were over 1700 degrees Fahrenheit has most scientists surprised by the over all recolonization of organisms on Mount Saint Helen’s. Erupting on March 20, 1980, Mount Saint Helen’s was a catastrophic string of events that left many areas sterile and barren, taking homes and nourishment from its previous ecosystem. On one hand we can look at this succession time as somewhat ‘rapid’, and with todays advanced satellite systems, the mountain is showing signs of life across entire disturbed zones. Interactive 1- this first visualization is a satellite image of Mount Saint Helens. Drag your cursor over the colored plots to reveal a chosen land plots latitude and longitude coordinates. As the user, you can use the key to toggle the image to show a specific zone. For example, if you choose the "All" option on top of the key, it clears the map, and from there you can build an areal visual you want to focus on.
My dashboards sole purpose is to communicate the story about the Pumice Plains biological status on Mount Saint Helen’s and how it is affected by its first inhabitant, Lupinus Lepidus, commonly known as Lupine, and scientifically tagged as ‘Luplep’. Due to the volcanoes fast, heated flow of rocks that reach speeds of up to 450 MPH, many areas were left without any insects, small mammals, seeds, and plants. Some areas have achieved that status of being a “biological legacy”, a term coined by ecologists, referring to its life forms ability to survive. Interactive 2- while the user can use the key in order to address a specific species, this visual tries to communicate a larger image. Measuring the average growth percent of all species over all of the plotted areas, and it doesn't sound as scary as it seems. Just use the scroll option on the bottom of the graphs, and you can move left and right to examine all of the species growth in a larger picture. This gives a more general picture of what plant growth statuses are on Mount Saint Helen's. (Feel free to filter out a species, such as Lupine!)
The Northern Flank of the mountain was the first to collapse, being heavily effected by massive landslides and pressure. The ‘side effects’ of these included avalanches, lava, ash, gasses, and debris spreading over 2300 square miles. As described above, these pyroclastic flows hit most of the North side of the volcano and ran about 4 km to the base. When deposits of debris poke out through these flows, we are left with the pumice plains. Conditions proved to be the worst in this area after the eruption, largely due to the absence of nitrogen in pumice. This story is unique due to the sheer resilience that purple lupine has, and its help to grow and help the landscapes overall rehabilitation. Interactive 3- this next visualization is a simple line comparison table which compares the plot's average richness to its average H'. Richness is just a simple measure of the number of species that are present. For example, if you were to use the key in the right hand corner, click "All" and then select PUPL (Pumice Plains) to filter this as the only option to view. What you are left with, is data that tells us that as more species are present (richness), in general, H' will match its up and downs. (When H' is higher, so is the diversity on the PUPL). Around 2004 we see a decrease in H', and the richness stay relatively the same which tells us that a species is starting to dominate and thrive on its own. The abundance of this plant becomes "more frequent" and we can see it "more often" on the mountain, specifically on the Pumice Plains.
So what species are we seeing to thrive??
Lupine is a successful colonizer on Mount Saint Helen’s because of its early successional trait of having small, light seeds that can be easily dispersed by the weather. Smoother transition. Also, due to the bacteria, Rhizobium, that affects the plant. What scientists call a nitrogen fixer, the plant then produces nodules of nitrogen on its allow it to pull rich nitrogen from the air, rather than depending on the stripped soil. Part of why Lupine is a big help in propelling diversity and regrowth on the mountain is because when the flower dies it releases its stored nitrogen within the soil.
Gradually, plants and insects can further colonize and add organic matter to the pumice, producing new foliage for animals, producing its own food chain. This isolated ecosystem will gain more momentum as it further fills in nutrient gaps, and will soon face the reality of a “boom and bust” cycle. Mount Saint Helen’s station scientist and research ecologist Charlie Crisafulli asserts these cycles happen because,
…at first they have nothing putting pressure on them — no predators, pathogens or parasites — and so their populations flourish. Once those "three P's," as Crisafulli calls them, emerge, the colonizer populations can crash. Eventually though, as the recovery progresses and diversity returns to the ecosystems, the swings of these cycles become less wild and more species begin to emerge with more stable populations (Live Science 5).
As Lupine helps promotes many forms of biodiversity on Mount Saint Helen’s, the levels of nitrogen in the soil will go up, and colonizers will soon show a new side to their growth. While I’m sure they’re thankful that the Lupine was able to restore their roots to the mountain, literally, also it’s important to remember the idea of the “boom and bust” cycle in ecology (above). Interactive 4- in order to see, literally, if Lupine had caused the decrease of H' on the Pumice Plains, this next visualization looks at Lupine's average plant growth on the Pumice Plains. In a closer look, we see theres a significant drop starting from 2004 and lasting about a year in the species growth rate. What this tells us is that from a species starting to dominate, we should see a sudden increase of its average plant growth. In this visualizations case, we see that from its eruption date to 1998, Lupine has been busy colonizing on Mount Saint Helen's, but in 2004 there was a sudden bust in its growth. What occurs after this, is some stability, represented in a pattern of booms and busts.
Interactive 5- the neat trait about this visual is that it takes two different methods of measurements (line graph and bar graph), and compares Lupines average H' to its average plant growth percent over the disturbed zones. Look closely between the 2003-2005, the average plant growth of Lupine (the black line) tells us that there was a boom in this species. Whats behind the line, specifically looking at 2004, is the H' (red bar) decreasing. Again, this is telling us that the species diversity is going down.The H' here was 1.7488, the lowest its been since 1989.
This project has allowed me to be creative in ways that are far from just a pencil and paper. I hope theres been a new light shed on some pivotal turning points of Mount Saint Helen's health and restoration. Hopefully scientists can continue to collect data to use for further research on this riveting and catastrophic event.
Bagley, Mary. "Mount St. Helens Eruption: Facts & Information." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Moral, Roger. "Mount St. Helens Publications." Mount St. Helens Publications. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Thompson, By Andrea. "Mount St. Helens Still Recovering 30 Years Later." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 2010. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.