Multiple stressors influence benthic macroinvertebrate communities in central Appalachian coalfield streams

Damion R. Drover, Stephen H. Schoenholtz, David J. Soucek, Carl E. Zipper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Headwater streams impacted by surface coal mining in the central Appalachian region of the eastern USA have characteristics not shared by reference-quality streams. These include elevated salinity, often measured using specific conductance (SC) and cited as a primary stressor of benthic macroinvertebrate communities. The study objective was to assess influence by mining-origin stressors on benthic macroinvertebrate community structure in headwater streams. Stream habitat characteristics were measured and benthic macroinvertebrates were sampled from 12 central Appalachian streams, 9 of which were influenced by mining. Multiple benthic macroinvertebrate community metrics, including Ephemeroptera density, richness, and composition were correlated negatively with watershed mining extent and with SC. Predator density and scraper richness were correlated negatively with watershed mining, stream-water selenium, and SC. Clinger richness was correlated positively with stream substrate characteristics including large cobble-to-fines ratios and relative bed stability, and was correlated negatively with watershed mining and SC. Relationships of predator density and scraper richness with selenium concentrations, and relationships of clinger richness with stream substrate characteristics, are consistent with stress mechanisms revealed by prior studies. Improved understanding of how habitat features are altered by mining and influence community structure in headwater streams can inform water resource management in mining areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-205
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Fine sediment
  • Habitat
  • Mining
  • Quantitative sampling
  • Salinity
  • Selenium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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