Hierarchical Classification of Complex Ecological Conditions within Heavily Mined Central Appalachian Watersheds

Thursday, August 21, 2014: 1:30 PM
204A (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
E. R. Merriam , Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
J. Todd Petty , Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Through a synoptic assessment of the mountaintop removal – valley fill mining (MTR-VF) region of West Virginia, we characterized and modeled detailed spatial patterns in physicochemical and biological conditions. We applied this information to identify management priorities within a house-neighborhood framework that incorporates local (physicochemical) and regional (metacommunity) factors. We identified 3 important chemical dimensions (principal component axes) related to surface mining (Ca2+, K+, Mg2+, SO42-, HCO3-, Se), abandoned mine lands and coal geology (Cd, Mn, Ni, Zn), and residential development (Na+, Cl-, Ba). Cluster analysis grouped water samples into types that were statistically distinguishable (reference, developed, transitional, and mined). Invertebrate communities responded differentially across water chemistry PCs and types. Community condition was best predicted by a combination of water chemistry, habitat quality and regional condition. By predicting local and regional conditions continuously, we demonstrate a complex house-neighborhood framework where management actions should target local (house) physicochemical stressors within the context of regional (neighborhood) condition. These ecological patterns and resulting house-neighborhood framework will serve as an important platform upon which to base water quality management decisions in mined Appalachian watersheds.