The Impact of Metal-Rich Sediments Derived from Mining on Freshwater Stream Life

  • John Iwan JonesEmail author
  • John F. Murphy
  • Adrian L. Collins
  • Kate L. Spencer
  • Philip S. Rainbow
  • Amanda Arnold
  • James L. Pretty
  • Arabella M. L. Moorhouse
  • Victor Aguilera
  • Paul Edwards
  • Fred Parsonage
  • Hugh Potter
  • Paul Whitehouse
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 248)


Metal-rich sediments have the potential to impair life in freshwater streams and rivers and, thereby, to inhibit recovery of ecological conditions after any remediation of mine water discharges. Sediments remain metal-rich over long time periods and have long-term potential ecotoxicological interactions with local biota, unless the sediments themselves are physically removed or replaced by less metal-rich sediment. Laboratory-derived environmental quality standards are difficult to apply to the field situation, as many complicating factors exist in the real world. Therefore, there is a strong case to consider other, field-relevant, measures of toxic effects as alternatives to laboratory-derived standards and to seek better biological tools to detect, diagnose and ideally predict community-level ecotoxicological impairment. Hence, this review concentrated on field measures of toxic effects of metal-rich sediment in freshwater streams, with less emphasis on laboratory-based toxicity testing approaches. To this end, this review provides an overview of the impact of metal-rich sediments on freshwater stream life, focusing on biological impacts linked to metal contamination.


Acid mine drainage Bioavailability Biomarkers Biomonitors Biotic index Community ecotoxicology Community-level biological monitoring Covarying stressors Ecosystem functioning Environmental quality standards Field scale Freshwater biota Impact assessment Legislation Metalloids Metallothioneins Metals Mining Morphological abnormalities Population-level effects Sediment Species Sensitivity Distributions Tolerance Toxicity tests Weight of evidence 



Acid Mine Drainage


Acid Mine Drainage Index


Average Metabolism Response


Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council


Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis


Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand


Average Score Per Taxon


Acid volatile sulphides


Simultaneously extracted metals released from a sediment sample during AVS extraction


Acid Water Indicator Community


Biotic Ligand Models


Biological Monitoring Working Party


Biotic Sediment Index


Chronic Criterion Accumulation Ratio


Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment


Cumulative Criterion Unit


Community Metabolism Diversity


Diatoms for Assessing River and Lake Ecological Quality


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Dissolved organic matter


US Environmental Protection Agency


Number of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera taxa


Environmental quality guidelines


Environmental quality standards


Free Ion Activity Model


Humic acid


Oligochaete Index of Sediment Bioindication


Lethal concentration (that will kill 50% of the population)


Assessment method for macrophytes (UK)


Lowest observable effect concentration


No observed effect concentration


Number of scoring families




Polychlorinated biphenyls


Predicted environmental concentration


Pollution-induced community tolerance


Predicted environmental no effect concentration


Quantitative Macroinvertebrate Community Index


River Invertebrate Prediction and Classification System


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Simultaneously extracted metals


Scope for growth


Stream Invertebrate Grade Number Average Level–metals


Sediment Quality Criteria


Sediment Quality Guidelines


Species Sensitivity Distributions


Threshold Indicator Taxa Analysis


Total Oxyradical Scavenging Capacity


Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism


Water Framework Directive (of the European Union)


Water Framework Directive – UK Technical Advisory Group


Windermere Humic Aqueous Model


Weight of evidence


Water quality criteria


Water quality guidelines



We acknowledge the UK Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for funding and supporting the project WT0970 Characterisation and targeting of measures for (non-coal) polluted mine waters – impacts of contaminated sediment on ecological recovery, which supported this work – together with the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales for their support. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and not necessarily Defra, the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales. ALC is supported by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) through the Soil to Nutrition strategic programme (BBS/E/C/000I0330) at Rothamsted Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Iwan Jones
    • 1
    Email author
  • John F. Murphy
    • 1
  • Adrian L. Collins
    • 2
  • Kate L. Spencer
    • 1
  • Philip S. Rainbow
    • 3
  • Amanda Arnold
    • 1
  • James L. Pretty
    • 1
  • Arabella M. L. Moorhouse
    • 4
  • Victor Aguilera
    • 5
  • Paul Edwards
    • 6
  • Fred Parsonage
    • 5
  • Hugh Potter
    • 7
  • Paul Whitehouse
    • 7
  1. 1.Queen Mary University of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Rothamsted Research, North WykeOkehamptonUK
  3. 3.Natural History MuseumLondonUK
  4. 4.The Coal AuthorityMansfieldUK
  5. 5.DefraLondonUK
  6. 6.Natural Resources WalesCardiffUK
  7. 7.Environment AgencyBristolUK

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