‘Fishing’ for Alternatives to Mountaintop Mining in Southern West Virginia
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Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a major industry in southern West Virginia with many detrimental effects for small to mid-sized streams, and interest in alternative, sustainable industries is on the rise. As a first step in a larger effort to assess the value of sport fisheries in southern West Virginia, we estimate the potential abundances of two popular sport fishes—smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)—in the Coal River Basin (CRB). A self-thinning model that incorporates net primary production and terrestrial insect subsidies is first used to predict potential densities of adult (age 1+) smallmouth bass and brook trout. Predicted densities (fish ha−1) are then multiplied by the surface area of the CRB stream network (ha) to estimate regional abundance. Median predicted abundances of bass and trout are 38 806 and 118 094 fish (total abundances with the CRB), respectively. However, when streams that intersect permitted MTR areas in the CRB are removed from the dataset, predicted abundances of bass and trout decrease by ~12–14 %. We conclude that significant potential exists in the CRB to capitalize on sport fisheries, but MTR may be undermining this potential.
KeywordsSmallmouth bass Brook trout Coal River Basin West Virginia Sport fisheries Regional fish abundance
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