After the Flow: Landscape Response to the Emplacement of Holocene Lava Flows, Central Oregon Cascades, USA

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Title: After the Flow: Landscape Response to the Emplacement of Holocene Lava Flows, Central Oregon Cascades, USA
Author: Deligne, Natalia
Abstract: Effusive volcanic eruptions repave landscapes rapidly with lava flows, resetting the underlying landscape and ecosystem. The unique physical properties of lava pose interesting challenges for recovery, as lava flows can be highly permeable while lava itself is dense, sterile, and generally inhospitable towards life. This dissertation examines two aspects of landscape recovery following lava flow emplacement: (1) hydrologic adaptation of surface and groundwater to recent volcanism and (2) plant colonization of young lava flows. I examine two sites in the central Oregon Cascades: the c. 3 ka Sand Mountain volcanic field (SMVF), located in the headwaters of the McKenzie River, a critical water resource for the state of Oregon, and the c. 1.5 ka Collier Cone lava flow, originating on the north flanks of North Sister volcano. My investigation of the SMVF and upper McKenzie River watershed reveals a complex volcanic history with profound impacts on the configuration and short-term discharge of the McKenzie River: lava flows from the SMVF and other Holocene vents have buried, dammed, and altered the path of the McKenzie River. Moreover, given the large groundwater contribution from the SMVF to the McKenzie River, I estimate that SMVF activity caused McKenzie River discharge in present-day Eugene, Oregon to decrease by up to 20% for days to months at a time; future regional mafic volcanic activity could have a similar impact. The SMVF and the Collier Cone lava flow are notable for the juxtaposition of barren exposed lava and mature forests on the same or similarly aged lava flows. I use a combination of LiDAR analysis, field observations, and soil characterization to examine soil and vegetation at these two sites and find that the presence of an external soil source greatly facilitates plant establishment, growth, and survival. Here, external soil sources are syn- or post-eruptive tephra (SMVF) or flood-borne deposits (Collier Cone lava flow). External soil appears to provide a substrate for plants to grow in along with key nutrients and sufficient moisture; overall, external soil sources are key for the initial recovery following an effusive volcanic disturbance. This dissertation includes co-authored material submitted for publication.
Date: 2012

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