Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Master of Forestry (MF)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture, Food and Environment

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Dr. Steven J. Price

Second Advisor

Dr. Christopher D. Barton

Abstract

Mountaintop removal mining and valley filling (MTR/VF) is a common form of land conversion in Central Appalachia and threatens the integrity of stream ecosystems. We investigated the effects of MTR/VF on stream salamander occupancy probabilities and community structure by conducting area constrained active searches for stream salamanders within intermittent streams located in mature forest (i.e., control) and those impacted by MTR/VF. During March to June of 2013, we detected five stream salamander species (Desmognathus fuscus, D. monticol, Eurycea cirrigera, Pseudotriton ruber, and Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) and found that the probability of occupancy was greatly reduced in MTR/VF streams compared to control streams. Additionally, the salamander community was greatly reduced in MTR/VF streams; the mean species richness estimate for MTR/VF streams was 2.09 (± 1.30 SD), whereas richness was 4.83 (± 0.58 SD) for control streams. Numerous mechanisms may be responsible for decreased occupancy and diminished salamander communities at MTR/VF streams, although water chemistry of streams may be a particularly important mechanism. Indeed, we detected elevated levels of specific conductivity, pH, total organic carbon, and dissolved ions in MTR/VF streams. Our results indicate that salamander communities, with other invertebrates, fish, and other aquatic and/or semi-aquatic animals, are susceptible to MTR/VF mining practices.