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Blackened land and red ink

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By Sherry Robinson

Clearing out old magazines last week, I came across a National Geographic (May 2010) story summarizing simply and graphically how, exactly, the 230-square-mile blast zone around Mount St. Helens is recovering.
If life can return on this most damaged of lands, it’s encouraging for us.
Ecologists expected most growth to begin on the margins.
Instead, it’s recovering from the inside out. Surviving pocket gophers pushed soil to the surface, where wind-blown seeds landed and took root; perennials poked through the ash, shrubs resprouted.
Other burrowing creatures, like toads and mice, emerged. As new plants appeared, insects returned; elk hooves broke up the crust and mixed ash and soil. It will take 50 years for a forest to reappear.
During a visit to Los Alamos last winter, a homeowner proudly showed me the slope behind her house. Burned in 2000, it now boasts the small trees she planted and a matching effort by Mother Nature.
This scientist has no illusions about a speedy transformation, but she’s enjoyed watching each bit of growth and change.
We also learn that the Forest Service’s aerial application of fast-germinating grass seed in Lincoln National Forest is beginning to sprout on blackened ground. The agency is following up with straw mulch to reduce erosion and slow runoff.


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