Ecological and Physical Benefits of Compensatory Stream Mitigation in an Intensively Mined Watershed

Thursday, August 21, 2014: 2:30 PM
204A (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Eric Miller , Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
J. Todd Petty , Wildlife and Fisheries Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Large scale surface mining in the Appalachians causes significant alteration of headwater catchments, and these impacts may be offset through stream mitigation. There have been over 100 mining related stream mitigation projects in southern West Virginia in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the ecological benefits of mitigation projects. In this project we use a before-after-control-impact design to quantify the ecological and physical benefits of large river restoration projects in the southern WV coalfields. Our results indicate that the benefits of the mitigation include: increased fish habitat and bed complexity, increased substrate diversity, increased macroinvertebrate biomass and diversity, and increased fish biomass and diversity. However, elevated TDS represents a critical factor limiting benefits of habitat restoration actions. Ultimately, our results can be used to guide stream mitigation actions that are more effective in restoring and maintaining ecological function of mined watersheds.