BURKE, R. A., K. M. FRITZ, B. R. JOHNSON, S. FULTON, AND C. Barton. Impact of Mountaintop Mining/Valley Fill on the Stable Carbon Isotopic Composition and Concentration of Dissolved Organic Carbon and Dissolved Inorganic Carbon in Headwater Streams. Presented at 6th International Conference on Applications of Stable Isotope Techniques to Ecological Studies, Honolulu, HI, August 25 - 29, 2008.
Headwater streams are the dominant land-water interface across much of the landscape and provide many important ecological services. Cycling and transport of various carbon fractions, which serve as important food sources for downstream aquatic ecosystems, are among the important functions of headwater streams. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) are two of the most ecologically important carbon fractions. Mountaintop mining/valley fill (MTM/VF) coal mining results in burial of headwater streams and causes sedimentation and elevated levels of various chemical constituents. We are using a wet chemical oxidation analyzer coupled to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer to measure the stable carbon isotopic composition and concentrations of DOC and DIC and other parameters in reference and MTM/VF impacted streams in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. Our results suggest that DOC in MTM/VF impacted streams is a mixture of relatively 13C-rich organic carbon released by mining activities and organic carbon derived from intact parts of the watershed.
To conduct monitoring in support of watershed model application