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Fish diversity decreases with mountaintop mining

Published On: 9/8/2014

Fish diversity negatively impacted by mountaintop mining activities

Acute impacts of mountaintop mining include chemical, physical, and hydrological changes but the long- term consequences on biological communities are poorly understood. In a paper by Nathan Hitt and Douglas Chambers (US Geological Survey) published recently in Freshwater Science, these long-term impacts were investigated by examining changes in fish community structure and function post-mountain top mining in Appalachian streams. Results show less than half of the fish species were present in impacted streams, compared to non-impacted streams. Additionally, there has been little recovery over time with persistent effects of mountaintop mining in terms of poor water quality (especially high conductivity and selenium concentrations). These water quality issues have been associated with decreasing benthic invertebrate food resources in previous research and that prey decline has, in turn, influenced the fish community, with insectivorous fish being most affected compared to fish with more diverse diets. This research reflects the consequences of mountaintop mining on aquatic systems with high biodiversity, such as Appalachian streams.

US Geological Survey press release: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3927#.VAXhc_ldVzi
Freshwater Science: https://www.freshwater-science.org/Journal/files/FWS_2013367.aspx

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