Primary Research Paper


, Volume 679, Issue 1, pp 97-117

First online:

Biodiversity loss in Appalachian headwater streams (Kentucky, USA): Plecoptera and Trichoptera communities

  • Gregory J. PondAffiliated withU.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3 Email author 

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Government and academic studies indicate that many streams in the Appalachian Mountains have degraded biological communities stemming from a variety of regional landuses. Headwater stonefly (Plecoptera) and caddisfly (Trichoptera) assemblages were assessed between 1999 and 2004 in relation to pervasive landuse disturbances (coal mining and residential) in mountainous areas of eastern Kentucky, USA. Indicator metrics (richness, abundance, tolerance, and an observed/expected (O/E) null model) were compared among 94 sites with different land use pressures including least disturbed reference, residential, mining, and mixed mining and residential categories. Thirty-three stonefly species from 26 genera and 9 families were identified; Leuctra, Acroneuria, Haploperla, and Isoperla comprised the core genera that commonly decreased with disturbance. Caddisflies were represented by 48 species, 32 genera, and 14 families. Core caddisfly genera (Neophylax, Pycnopsyche, Rhyacophila, Lepidostoma, and Wormaldia) were extirpated from most disturbed sites. Species richness was significantly higher at reference sites and reference site mean tolerance value was lowest compared to all other categories; relative abundance of both orders was variable between disturbance groups. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (for riffle-dwelling stonefly and caddisfly genera) clustered reference sites distinctly from most other sites. The O/E index was highly correlated with individual habitat and chemical stressors (pH, conductivity) and on average, it estimated ~ 70% loss of common stoneflies and caddisflies across all disturbed landuse categories. Expected plecopteran and trichopteran communities were radically altered in streams draining mining and residential disturbance. Long-term impacts incurred by both landuses will continue to depress these vulnerable indigenous fauna.


Benthic macroinvertebrates Bioassessment EPT Coal mining Residential development Conductivity