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Sediment and epilithon metabolism and hydrolytic activity in streams affected by mountaintop removal coal mining, West Virginia, U.S.A.
FRITZ, K. M., B. R. JOHNSON, AND R. Price. Sediment and epilithon metabolism and hydrolytic activity in streams affected by mountaintop removal coal mining, West Virginia, U.S.A. Presented at North American Benthological Society, 57 Annual Meeting, Grand Rapids, MI, May 17 - 22, 2009.
The goal of this research is to develop methods and indicators that are useful for evaluating the condition of aquatic communities, for assessing the restoration of aquatic communities in response to mitigation and best management practices, and for determining the exposure of aquatic communities to different classes of stressors (i.e., pesticides, sedimentation, habitat alteration).
Mountaintop removal and valley filling (MTR/VF) is a method of coal mining used in the Central Appalachians. Despite regulations requiring that potential mpacts to stream function be considered in determining compensatory mitigation associated with permitted fill activities, assessments of MTR/VF have only included structural measures. We measured sediment and epilithon metabolism and hydrolytic activity (fluorescein diacetate) seasonally in ten streams to determine the feasibility of these functional measurements. Sediment metabolism and hydrolytic activity were significantly higher in forested streams than in mined streams across all seasons. Epilithic metabolism was significantly higher in forested streams than in mined streams in October, but did not vary in February, April or July. Metabolism and hydrolytic activity were strongly correlated. The percent cover of fine sediments was negatively correlated with epilithic metabolism and hydrolytic activity, whereas the total upstream channel length was positively correlated with sediment metabolism and hydrolytic activity. All measures were negatively related to specific conductance. These results suggest that MTR/VF have negative effects on stream function by truncating stream networks, altering water chemistry, and increasing sedimentation. Combining functional measures with traditionally used structural measures will provide a more complete assessment of ecosystem integrity.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/ABSTRACT)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LABORATORY
ECOLOGICAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH DIVISION
ECOSYSTEMS RESEARCH BRANCH