‘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
The authors thank Craig Barber, John Van Sickle, and three anonymous reviewers for critical feedback on the manuscript. The trout and bass icons in Fig. 3 were obtained through the Integration and Application Network at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Daniel McGarvey was supported in part by an appointment to the Research Participation Program for the United States Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is VCU Rice Center Research Contribution No. 27. This manuscript is also a contribution to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development’s Ecosystem Services Research Program. It has been reviewed in accordance with the Agency’s peer and administrative review policies and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.
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