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Estimating benthic secondary production from aquatic insect emergence in streams affected by mountaintop removal coal mining, West Virginia USA
Johnson, B., K. Fritz, AND R. Price. Estimating benthic secondary production from aquatic insect emergence in streams affected by mountaintop removal coal mining, West Virginia USA. Fundamental and Applied Limnology. E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart, Germany, 182(3):191-204, (2013).
The purpose of this research was to help develop rapid indicators of stream ecosystem functions so CWA 401/404 regulators can better assess potential impacts of mountaintop removal/valley fill coal mining and ensure appropriate mitigation for losses, as indicated in a federal circuit court ruling.
Mountaintop removal and valley fill (MTR/VF) coal mining recountours the Appalachian landscape, buries headwater stream channels, and degrades downstream water quality. The goal of this study was to compare benthic community production estimates, based on seasonal insect emergence, between mined and forested streams in the Twentymile Creek watershed, WV (USA). We also assessed the relationship between structural and functional indicators by comparing our production estimates to traditional bioassessment measures. Emergence traps were deployed seasonally for 2-4 weeks beginning in Autumn 2007 along 100-m reaches in each of five mined and five forested streams. The study reaches in the mined streams were located at varying distances downstream of their respective valley fills. Benthic community production was calculated using published length-mass equations and emergence:production ratios. No differences in seasonal emergent density (indiv. m-2 d-1) , biomass (mg m-2 d-1) or annual secondary production (g AFDM m-2 y-1) were detected between treatments. Annual secondary production estimates for mined streams were highly variable and averaged 29.6 g AFDM m-2 y-1, but ranged from 1.51 g AFDM m-2 y-1 in the stream nearest to its valley fill to 65.69 g AFDM m-2 y-1 in another stream that was 1 km downstream from its fill. Production of forested streams was more consistent with an average of 20.42 g AFDM m-2 y-1 and ranged only from 13.81-27.17 g AFDM m-2 y-1. Annual production estimates were not correlated with benthic community index scores, component metrics, or habitat assessment scores. Only EPT production estimates of were significantly correlated with structural endpoints. Conductivity of mined streams was >30X greater than forested streams and contributed to strong differences in emergence composition. Chironomids alone accounted for >80% of production in mined streams while forested streams had significantly higher EPT production. Measures of stream ecosystem function, including secondary production, can provide a more holistic stream assessments. Prior to their widespread application as indicators of stream health, however, studies are needed to further develop robust response functions across disturbance gradients from multiple stressors.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LABORATORY
ECOLOGICAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH DIVISION
ECOSYSTEMS RESEARCH BRANCH