Thirty years ago, on May 18, Mount St. Helens lost its top—3.7 billion cubic yards of mountain, to be exact. The peak of the Pacific Northwest icon dropped by about 1,300 feet in a matter of seconds, taking down with it enough trees to build 300,000 two-bedroom houses. Gone, too, were 200 homes, 57 human lives and most of the visible wildlife across 230 square miles. "The first reaction for many of us was that what remained was a moonscape," recalls Jerry Franklin, professor of ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington. "But that proved to be very wrong."Those initial bleak impressions were based on aerial views. As scientists got a closer look at the ash-laden ground, they discovered that the devastating losses had made room for remarkable gains—in terms of both ecosystem productivity and scientific progress.
The rest, including slide show, here.