Macroinvertebrate communities inhabiting surface mine wetlands of southwestern Virginia

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Virginia Tech


Wetland acreage in Southwest Virginia has increased because of formation of wetlands on relic surface mine benches. Prior to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (PL 95-87) once mining operations were completed the sites were abandoned. These areas presented novel landscapes in the rugged Allegheny Plateau physiographic region. Specifically, flat, compacted areas were created. In microdepression of these sites wetlands have formed. This study investigates the macroinvertebrate community associated wetlands of relic surface mining operations. Surveys were conducted to identify what macroinvertebrates utilize these wetlands, to determine how this community was influenced by the physio-chemical characteristics of surface mine wetlands, and to develop design specifications for creating wetlands for current restoration efforts. Nine wetlands were sampled four times between July 1993 and May 1994. Seventy genera of macroinvertebrates were identified. The wetlands represented a range of physical and chemical parameters. The taxa richness appears to be related to these differences. Canonical Correspondence Analysis suggests that for the nine wetlands, the macro invertebrate taxa distribution is best explained by physical features of depth and duration of flooding, chemical parameters of iron, manganese, and sulfate concentration, and a biotic measure of plant litter biomass.

The findings of this study can be applied to ecological restoration. Wetland creation can be incorporated into current surface mine reclamation projects. To maximize the macro invertebrate community of reclamation wetlands, sites must be positioned to avoid water quality problems, excavated to have a deeper portion which will remain inundated during all or most of the year, and have a gradually sloping substrate from the deepest area to the land surface. The final criteria being indirectly related to the macroinvertebrate community by influencing the macrophyte production, richness, and litter.