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. Chris Barton

Abstract

Surface coal mining in Appalachia has contributed to a suite of ecological impacts, both terrestrial and aquatic. Conventional reclamation in Appalachia leads to the development of hay/pasture systems dominated by nonnative grasses and legumes, with soils that are chemically and physically unfavorable to native tree growth. Several studies have shown that more weathered minespoils provide a better growth medium than unweathered spoils in Appalachia. Spoil segregation plots were constructed on Bent Mountain in Pike County, KY, to compare the suitability of three mine spoil types (BROWN weathered sandstone, GRAY unweathered sandstone, and MIXED sandstones and shales). In 2013 (after nine growing seasons) volume of planted trees was 50x higher on BROWN than on GRAY. In addition, natural colonization of unplanted groundcover and tree species was much more extensive on BROWN than GRAY or MIXED. Most water chemical parameters were similar across spoil types; however, water chemistry on all plots appears to have stabilized after nine growing seasons. Finally, rapidly developing forest on BROWN appears to be influencing water budgeting on the site, leading to lower discharge during summer months. These results indicate that BROWN weathered spoils provide a better growth medium than GRAY unweathered spoils for native trees.

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