Noah’s Flood was the most catastrophic ecological disturbance in the history of the earth. Occurring
several thousand years ago, it severely disrupted biological
systems on the entire planet (Genesis 7: 21–23; 2 Peter 3: 6).
Yet, following the Flood, the biota recovered, producing
the forests, grasslands, deserts, tundra, and other biomes
of the post-Flood world (Genesis 8: 11; Genesis 14: 13).
Both skeptic and believer might ask whether such amazing
transformations are possible, and, if so, by what ecological
processes they would occur.
An important source of information in attempting to
answer such questions is the study of modern disturbances,
including those caused by wildfire, windstorm, local
flooding, disease, avalanche, and glaciation. But of far
greater intensity than these is volcanic eruption, and no
eruption has been documented, either geologically or
biologically, nearly as well as was the 1980 eruption of
Mount St Helens in Washington State. 1 One would think,
therefore, that a careful review of lessons learned at Mount
St Helens would reveal general principles of disturbance
recovery, 2 which would shed light on processes operating
following Noah’s Flood.
This article examines biological recovery at Mount
St Helens from the standpoint of terrestrial arthropods, 3
which have been the subjects of several studies. Attention
will be given to predisturbance arthropods and their
habitats, the disturbance itself, and ecological responses
of arthropods to the disturbance. Lastly, implications for
understanding biological recovery following Noah’s Flood
will be discussed.
Prior to its 1980 eruption, Mount St Helens was a 2,950 m
ASL (above sea level) stratovolcano located on the
west side of the Cascade Mountain Range in the state
of Washington, USA. 4 It was known to be active, having
last erupted in 1857. The mountain’s summit and upper
slopes were seasonally clad with deep snowpack and
also supported about a dozen glaciers. Alpine meadows
occupied high and medium elevation sites. Below timber-line, and extending onto the surrounding landscape, grew
expansive old-growth, plantation, and recently clear-cut
coniferous forests. Several mountain lakes, the largest being
Spirit Lake, lay to the north and streams draining the area
emptied into the Columbia River. The climate was Pacific
maritime, with a mean annual precipitation of 2,373 mm
at an elevation about 1,000 m ASL.
Pre-1980 Mount St Helens provided manifold
habitats for a diverse assemblage of arthropod species.
Unfortunately, this arthropod diversity was not well
documented. 5 The most comprehensive inventory for a
westside forest in the Cascade Range is from the H.J.
Andrews Experimental Forest, an ecological research
site located 200 km to the south. 6 Containing over 4,000
arthropod entries, it approximates a baseline species list
for pre-eruption Mount St Helens.
The 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens was a complex
event involving diverse geological processes which
Arthropod responses to the 1980 eruption
of Mount St Helens—implications for Noahic
Keith H. Swenson
Noah’s Flood was the greatest ecological disturbance in earth history, and yet Earth’s biota subsequently recovered,
demonstrating remarkable resilience. In similar manner, the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens in Washington State, USA,
severely disrupted a large ecosystem, the responses of which have been, and continue to be, observed and documented.
General mechanisms of disturbance and principles of recovery have been delineated, which likely apply to other large
disturbances, including Noah’s Flood. Therefore, lessons learned at Mount St Helens should assist biblical creationists
in constructing a model for post-Noahic Flood biological recovery. This article looks at one facet of the Mount St Helens
eruption—the impact on arthropods and their subsequent responses to disturbance, including the following topics: high
mortality, biological legacies, dispersal, role in primary succession, enrichment of developing soils, alteration of successional
trajectories, and great resilience. Implications for a post-Noahic Flood recovery model are discussed.