Recovery of Stream Communities Following Surface Coal Mine Reclamation

Scott Hall, Dave Beeson, Richard Lockwood


Watershed, riparian zone, and in-stream habitat reclamation activities were implemented following surface coal mining in a headwater stream watershed. A three-year post-reclamation assessment was conducted of water quality, habitat, and biological communities. Water quality in reclaimed reaches was generally similar to that of the reference reach. Stream habitat assessments indicated “suboptimal” conditions for reference and reclaimed reaches. Fish index of biotic integrity scores indicated “fair” biotic status for reference and re-claimed reaches. Benthic macroinvertebrate riffle and multi-habitat community metrics indicated slight or no impairment in the reclaimed reaches as compared to the reference reach, and a mussel community was quickly established in reclaimed reaches despite its pre-mining absence. Overall, water quality, habitat, and biological conditions in reclaimed stream reaches were similar to those of the reference reach, demonstrating that small headwater streams can quickly recover following reclamation techniques suitable to the ecological setting. However, the recovery may have been a function of the quality of the biological communities being somewhat limited by the flat topography of the local and regional watershed.

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Environment and Natural Resources Research   ISSN 1927-0488 (Print)   ISSN 1927-0496 (Online)

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