Original paper

Nitrogen stable isotopes as an alternative for assessing mountaintop removal mining's impact on headwater streams

Daniel, Wesley M.; Kaller, Michael D.; Jack, Jeff

Fundamental and Applied Limnology Volume 186 Nr. 3 (2015), p. 193 - 202

published: May 1, 2015

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ArtNo. ESP141018603000, Price: 29.00 €

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The impact of mountaintop removal mining and valley fill (MTM/VF) coal mining on headwater stream communities in U. S. Central Appalachian region offers lessons on the consequences of this extraction method. Coal mining is the dominant form of land use change in the region and has been associated with numerous alterations to hydrology, water quality, in-stream habitat suitability, and biological communities. We investigated food web structure in headwater streams associated with MTM/VF, by examining δ15N‰ and δ13C‰ stable isotopes in basal resources and benthic macroinvertebrates of different functional groups. Nitrogen isotope ratios in mined streams were elevated substantially compared with the reference samples, suggesting alterations in nitrogen source or processing as a result of mining. This finding further demonstrates negative impacts of mining activities on MTM/VF streams food webs, potentially arising from changes to riparian vegetation, hydrological or geochemical modifications to the catchment, or as a result of reclamation activities. The increase in δ15N in mined streams beyond natural levels suggests a novel mechanism of impairment and should be an additional consideration when evaluating MTM/VF impacts.


aquatic insectsfood webcentral appalachian regionmountaintop removal mining and valley filleastern kentucky