Environmental Management

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 702–714 | Cite as

Effects of Coal Mining, Forestry, and Road Construction on Southern Appalachian Stream Invertebrates and Habitats

  • Michael M. Gangloff
  • Michael Perkins
  • Peter W. Blum
  • Craig Walker


Coal has been extracted via surface and sub-surface mining for decades throughout the Appalachian Mountains. New interest in ridge-top mining has raised concerns about possible waterway impacts. We examined effects of forestry, mining, and road construction-based disturbance on physico-chemistry and macroinvertebrate communities in east-central Tennessee headwater streams. Although 11 of 30 sites failed Tennessee’s biocriteria scoring system, invertebrate richness was moderately high and we did not find significant differences in any water chemistry or habitat parameters between sites with passing and failing scores. However, conductivity and dissolved solid concentrations appeared elevated in the majority of study streams. Principal components (PCs) analysis indicated that six PCs accounted for ~77 % of among-site habitat variability. One PC associated with dissolved oxygen and specific conductance explained the second highest proportion of among-site variability after catchment area. Specific conductance was not correlated with catchment area but was strongly correlated with mining activity. Composition and success of multivariate models using habitat PCs to predict macroinvertebrate metrics was highly variable. PC scores associated with water chemistry and substrate composition were most frequently included in significant models. These results suggest that impacts of historical and current coal mining remain a source of water quality and macroinvertebrate community impairment in this region, but effects are subtle. Our results suggest that surface mining may have chronic and system-wide effects on habitat conditions and invertebrate communities in Cumberland Plateau streams.


Surface mine Conductivity Benthos pH Fine sediment Coal 



We thank the following former students or technicians for field assistance: E. Abernethy, D. Hamilton, R. Hoch, J. Holcomb, and D. Walker. Jordan Holcomb constructed the study site map. Ken Fritz (USEPA) reviewed an earlier draft of this manuscript and we are grateful for his helpful comments. The research presented in this paper was conducted in part by employees of the US Office of Surface Mining, Appalachian Region and was funded by OSM. However, the views expressed in this article are those of the coauthors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of OSM or the US government. Mention of trade names does not reflect endorsement by OSM or the US government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael M. Gangloff
    • 1
  • Michael Perkins
    • 1
  • Peter W. Blum
    • 1
    • 3
  • Craig Walker
    • 2
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA
  2. 2.Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and EnforcementKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentUniversity of North Carolina- GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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