Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Geological Survey finds that mountaintop removal reduces fish populations in Appalachian streams

Mountaintop removal is having a negative impact on fish populations in Appalachian streams, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Freshwater Science. The study found that these areas have "fewer than half as many fish species and a third as many total fish as other regional waterway," Ken Ward reports for The Charleston Gazette.

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The study, which compared data from West Virginia’s heavily mined Guyandotte River basin in 1999-2001 and 2010-2011, "found no evidence that fish communities recovered over time," Ward writes. The study found that "water quality was generally more important than physical habitat for the fish community changes that were documented. The researchers found elevated selenium and electrical conductivity levels where fish communities were degraded but saw no differences in the available physical habitat." (USGS graphic: Sampling sites in the Guyandotte River basin)

Lead author Nathanial Hitt said, “Our results indicate that headwater mining may be limiting fish communities by restricting the prey base available for fish. For instance, fish species with specialized diets of stream insects were more likely to be lost from the streams over time than fish species with more diverse diets.” (Read more)

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