Effects of Mining-Derived Metals on Riffle-Dwelling Crayfish in Southwestern Missouri and Southeastern Kansas, USA

  • Ann L. Allert
  • Robert J. DiStefano
  • Christopher J. Schmitt
  • James F. Fairchild
  • William G. Brumbaugh


Riffle-dwelling crayfish populations were sampled at 16 sites in 4 tributaries of the Spring River located within the Tri-State Mining District in southwest Missouri. Crayfish density, physical habitat quality, and water quality were examined at each site to assess the ecological effects of mining-derived metals on crayfish. Metals (lead, zinc, and cadmium) were analyzed in samples of surface water, sediment, detritus, and whole crayfish. Sites were classified a posteriori into reference, mining, and downstream sites primarily based on metal concentrations in the materials analyzed. Three species of crayfish (Orconectes neglectus neglectus, O. macrus, and O. virilis) were collected during the study; however, only O. n. neglectus was collected at all sites. Mean crayfish densities were significantly lower at mining sites than at reference sites. Mean concentrations of metals were significantly correlated among the materials analyzed and were significantly greater at mining and downstream sites than at reference sites. Principal component analyses showed a separation of sites due to an inverse relationship among crayfish density, metals concentrations, and physical habitat quality variables. Sediment probable-effects quotients and surface-water toxic unit scores were significantly correlated; both indicated risk of toxicity to aquatic biota at several sites. Metals concentrations in whole crayfish at several sites exceeded concentrations known to be toxic to carnivorous wildlife. Mining-derived metals have the potential to impair ecosystem function through decreased organic matter processing and nutrient cycling in streams due to decreased crayfish densities.



We thank the private landowners who allowed us to access the studied streams. Personnel who assisted in the study included staff from the Missouri Department of Conservation and from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Columbia Environmental Research Center. We thank J. Besser, J. Hinck, N. Wang, and two anonymous reviewers for providing insightful comments that greatly improved the quality of this manuscript. This study was jointly funded by the USGS, the United States Department of the Interior Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. This manuscript has been reviewed in accordance with USGS policy. All procedures performed conformed with USGS guidelines for the humane treatment of the test organisms during culture and experimentation. The use of trade names does not constitute USGS or United States Government endorsement.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 232 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann L. Allert
    • 1
  • Robert J. DiStefano
    • 2
  • Christopher J. Schmitt
    • 1
  • James F. Fairchild
    • 1
  • William G. Brumbaugh
    • 1
  1. 1.Columbia Environmental Research Center, United States Geological SurveyColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Missouri Department of ConservationCentral Regional Office and Conservation Research CenterColumbiaUSA

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