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The effect of Appalachian mountaintop mining on interior forest

Abstract

Southern Appalachian forests are predominantly interior because they are spatially extensive with little disturbance imposed by other uses of the land. Appalachian mountaintop mining increased substantially during the 1990s, posing a threat to the interior character of the forest. We used spatial convolution to identify interior forest at multiple scales on circa 1992 and 2001 land-cover maps of the Southern Appalachians. Our analyses show that interior forest loss was 1.75–5.0 times greater than the direct forest loss attributable to mountaintop mining. Mountaintop mining in the southern Appalachians has reduced forest interior area more extensively than the reduction that would be expected based on changes in overall forest area alone. The loss of Southern Appalachian interior forest is of global significance because of the worldwide rarity of large expanses of temperate deciduous forest.

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Acknowledgements

This paper has been subjected to the US Environmental Protection Agency peer and administrative review and has been approved for publication. The work was performed at the USFS/USEPA Center for Landscape Pattern Analysis. We thank Dave Bradford, Taylor Jarnagin and two anonymous reviewers for their comments of an earlier draft of the paper.

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Correspondence to J. D. Wickham.

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Wickham, J.D., Riitters, K.H., Wade, T.G. et al. The effect of Appalachian mountaintop mining on interior forest. Landscape Ecol 22, 179–187 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-006-9040-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-006-9040-z

Keywords

  • Appalachian mountains
  • Coal mining
  • Edge effects
  • Forest loss
  • Interior forest