To assess the possible effects of volcanic ash from the May 18,1980, eruption of Mt. St. Helens, Washington, on aquatic ecosystems, we conducted a bioassay experiment with a blue-green alga, Anabaena flos-aquae. Results showed that leachate (obtained by leaching 151 g of ash with 130 mL of simulated freshwater) was lethal to Anabaena flos-aquae cultures when diluted as much as 1:100 with culture medium. Cultures exposed to a 1:500 dilution grew, but a toxic effect was indicated by abnormalities in the Anabaena filaments. This study indicates that ash from the Mt. St. Helens volcano could have an effect on aquatic ecosystems in the areas of significant ashfall. Further study is needed to determine the toxic chemical constituents in the ash and also its possible effects on other aquatic organisms.
Additional publication details
Toxicity of volcanic-ash leachate to a blue-green alga. Results of a preliminary bioassay experiment