Study: Mountaintop removal reduces fish population

July 2, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.


As we reported in today’s Gazette, there’s a significant new study out about mountaintop removal’s impact on fish in Appalachian streams:

Appalachian streams affected by mountaintop removal coal mining can have fewer than half as many fish species and a third as many total fish as other regional waterways, according to a new study published this week by researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Using data from several time periods to track changes in fish diversity and abundance in West Virginia’s Guyandotte River basin, USGS experts observed persistent effects of mountaintop removal associated with water quality degradation and found no evidence that fish communities recovered over time.

Nathanial Hitt, a USGS research fish biologist and lead author of the paper, said:

The Appalachian Mountains are a global hotspot for freshwater fish diversity,. Our paper provides some of the first peer-reviewed research to understand how fish communities respond to mountaintop mining in these biologically diverse headwater streams.

You can read the paper here and the USGS press release here.


3 Responses to “Study: Mountaintop removal reduces fish population”

  1. Dianne Bady says:

    I hope this new study will convince US EPA to listen more closely to citizen concerns about EPA’s new proposed selenium rules and testing methods.

    EPA proposes to throw out the acute standard for selenium, a numeric standard that can be easily tested for, and rely on testing fish tissue to determine how much selenium is present in fish.

    These USGS results clearly show one more problem with fish tissue data – the difficulty of finding fish below MTR mines, as compared to finding fish in non-impacted streams.

    I’ve heard EPA officials give very lame responses to serious citizen concerns about the proposed new selenium standards, where even those officials must have realized they were not really answering our questions. If EPA still maintains that fish tissue testing is an adequate replacement for acute numeric limits, I wonder how they will explain that this is good science.

    (EPA does propose a longer-term average selenium limit, but no acute limit)

  2. Ralphieboy says:

    Previous studies have shown MTR may be pretty hazardous to humans as well.

  3. Dave Brubaker says:

    There was also this unpublicized, publication released this week by EPA & OSM:
    Long-Term Impacts on Macroinvertebrates Downstream of Reclaimed Mountaintop Mining Valley Fills in Central Appalachia

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