Mother Earth is familiar with humanity's destructive tendencies. The atomic bombs developed by man and subsequently dropped in Japan during WWII, for instance, is but one method we have designed to destroy.
After the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan, the affected areas were decimated for decades before they physically returned to normal. Genetic recovery has taken approximately 20 years, and the number of people still affected today is uncertain (Quora).
A natural disaster, like a volcanic eruption, will also produce a similar level of devastation to the environment and residing population, but without lethal doses of radiation. At the time, scientists believed it would yield a similar level of destruction. It turns out, however, that the earth’s biome operates at a level of efficiency far more significant than humanity can achieve. This blog intends to discuss the Mount St. Helen’s eruption (briefly) and the subsequent recovery of the ecosystems of the area.
Mount St. Helens
400 Hiroshima Bombs
On March 27, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted with the power of over 400 Hiroshima bombs and with next to no warning before the north face of its mountain exploded (PBS).
Recovery from Eruption
In the aftermath of this ecosystem’s devastation, the renewal of life in the area surprised even the most hardened ecologists. The surprise did not come from the fact that the affected regions recovered from such devastation. What was surprising was how thoroughly the area healed. The initially developed school of thought related to ecosystem recovery following such a natural disaster was not always available.
Learning about Recovery
What scientists learned was that there were several key factors to the seemingly rapid recovery of this volcanic eruption, namely: timing, biological momentum, and plants (Thompson). Timing turns out to be a critical factor in this event. For instance, as the eruption occurred in May, the area itself was still in a winter-type setting. Additionally, the explosion happened in the morning, as opposed to the middle of the day. Animals were still in their burrows resting, as well as, in the process of hibernation for others. Birds had not yet returned from their seasonal migrations. Snow even covered many plants and, as a result, were unaffected by the eruption.
Due to all these convenient factors, the eruption did not cease all life in the region. Smaller animals were able to survive the catastrophe entirely (Thompson). Plants were able to grow again rather quickly. Many species of animals also returned quickly. However, the various animal populations in the area did experience rapid rises and fall following the event as recovery progressed. In some areas of the ecosystem, signs of the eruption were not even evident after six years of recovery. It was almost as if the explosion never happened.
Earth's primary natural cycles allow for a state of equilibrium between the environment and the life-forms within it (Scholaris). While the devastation was extensive, the ecosystem recovered quite well, considering the initial damage. Wildlife returned to the area over time, and some human assistance allowed the forest to flourish. The environment virtually took care of itself following the event. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to recover an ecosystem devastated by human ignorance.
Thanks again, everyone, for taking the time to read this work. Our next article will cover a past environmental issue caused directly by poor industrial processes.
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