, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 506–521 | Cite as

Effects of historical lead–zinc mining on riffle-dwelling benthic fish and crayfish in the Big River of southeastern Missouri, USA

  • A. L. Allert
  • R. J. DiStefano
  • J. F. Fairchild
  • C. J. Schmitt
  • M. J. McKee
  • J. A. Girondo
  • W. G. Brumbaugh
  • T. W. May


The Big River (BGR) drains much of the Old Lead Belt mining district (OLB) in southeastern Missouri, USA, which was historically among the largest producers of lead–zinc (Pb–Zn) ore in the world. We sampled benthic fish and crayfish in riffle habitats at eight sites in the BGR and conducted 56-day in situ exposures to the woodland crayfish (Orconectes hylas) and golden crayfish (Orconectes luteus) in cages at four sites affected to differing degrees by mining. Densities of fish and crayfish, physical habitat and water quality, and the survival and growth of caged crayfish were examined at sites with no known upstream mining activities (i.e., reference sites) and at sites downstream of mining areas (i.e., mining and downstream sites). Lead, zinc, and cadmium were analyzed in surface and pore water, sediment, detritus, fish, crayfish, and other benthic macro-invertebrates. Metals concentrations in all materials analyzed were greater at mining and downstream sites than at reference sites. Ten species of fish and four species of crayfish were collected. Fish and crayfish densities were significantly greater at reference than mining or downstream sites, and densities were greater at downstream than mining sites. Survival of caged crayfish was significantly lower at mining sites than reference sites; downstream sites were not tested. Chronic toxic-unit scores and sediment probable effects quotients indicated significant risk of toxicity to fish and crayfish, and metals concentrations in crayfish were sufficiently high to represent a risk to wildlife at mining and downstream sites. Collectively, the results provided direct evidence that metals associated with historical mining activities in the OLB continue to affect aquatic life in the BGR.


Lead–zinc mining Benthic fish Crayfish Orconectes hylas Orconectes luteus In situ toxicity 



We thank the private landowners who allowed access to these streams. We thank D. Mosby and J. Weber of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and M. Reed and K. Meneau of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) for help in identifying sampling locations and in sample collection. Personnel from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), MDC, Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), and an American Fisheries Society Hutton Junior Biologist assisted with field collection and laboratory analyses. We thank M. Struckhoff for his assistance with Fig. 1. We thank K. Buhl and N. Kemble and two anonymous reviewers for providing insightful comments that greatly improved this manuscript. This study was jointly funded by USGS, the U.S. Department of the Interior Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, MDC, and MDNR. This report has been reviewed in accordance with USGS policy.


Crayfish and fish were collected by personnel; however, all procedures conformed to USGS guidelines for the humane treatment of test organisms during culture and experimentation and with American Fisheries Society, American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (2004) guidelines for the use of fish in research. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. L. Allert
    • 1
  • R. J. DiStefano
    • 2
  • J. F. Fairchild
    • 1
  • C. J. Schmitt
    • 1
  • M. J. McKee
    • 2
  • J. A. Girondo
    • 3
  • W. G. Brumbaugh
    • 1
  • T. W. May
    • 1
  1. 1.Columbia Environmental Research Center, U.S. Geological SurveyColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Missouri Department of ConservationColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Missouri Department of ConservationSullivanUSA

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