Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Forest and Natural Resource Sciences (MSFNRS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Forestry and Natural Resources

First Advisor

Dr. Jian Yang


Land Use Land Cover (LULC) changes can take place at the expense of degrading environmental conditions and undermining ecosystem’s capacity to deliver benefits to people. In the Appalachian region, surface mining for coal is a major driver of LULC change. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 requires mine site reclamation but typical reclamation practices often result in land cover dominated by grass and shrubs. The Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) is a promising reclamation strategy but not in widespread use by industry. Assessing ecosystem services that can be obtained from a forest landscape may help policy-makers and other stakeholders fully understand the benefits of forestry based reclamation. The objectives of this study are to 1) identify how surface mining and reclamation changed the LULC of a watershed encompassing the north fork of the Kentucky River 2) assess the biophysical value of four major ecosystem services under the contemporary LULC condition and 3) assess the benefits of the FRA scenario in the provision of ecosystem services. Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to study the LULC change and InVEST software models for ecosystem services assessment. The results indicate that watershed’s forest area has decreased by 7,751 hectares from 2001 to 2011 and mining activity may have contributed 75% of the change in LULC. Barren and grassland land covers provide less carbon storage, yield more water, and export more sediments and nutrients than forests. At the watershed level, the FRA modeled scenario increased carbon storage (13%) and reduced water yield (5%), sediment export (40%) and nutrient export (7%). This study provides critical information regarding the ecological benefits of Forestry Reclamation Approach to assist policy and decision making in this region even considering the modeling and data limitations.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)