|Satellite images from 1985 to 2015 show spread of surface mining across Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia (Wise County, Virginia, is at lower right). Most, but not all, disturbed areas are coal mines. (Map by Christian Thomas, SkyTruth)|
"Researchers estimate that between 1985 and 2015, an average of 21,000 acres was converted to bare earth and rubble in central Appalachia each year -- an area about half the size of Washington, D.C.," says a report on the study. (Federal law requires the mined area to be reclaimed.) "This analysis places the total estimate since the 1970s at about 1.5 million acres. "That is an area 18 percent larger than the state of Delaware, and only 3 percent smaller than Everglades National Park," said first author Andrew Pericak, who conducted the research in the lab of biology professor Emily Bernhardt at Duke. Read more here.