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. Christopher D. Barton


Surface mining for coal has left scars on landscapes and reduced ecosystem functions across Appalachia for over a century. In the Monongahela National Forest, WV, a restoration project has been going on since 2009 on legacy minelands that dissect the biodiverse high elevation red spruce ecosystem. Goals of the restoration project include watershed improvement, soil building, enhancement of early successional habitat, and reforestation. Decompaction of the minelands is a critical step in the restoration process, and allows native vegetation to begin colonizing the site. Through this project, hundreds of vernal pools are constructed each year, and woody debris from non-native tree plantations is repurposed for habitat features. Increasing native tree and shrub diversity on the minelands has long been an objective, but herbaceous plants, which provide many benefits to soil formation and wildlife habitat, are underutilized. Transplants of four native flowering species important to pollinators were planted around constructed vernal pools and survival and cover were measured. Ten herbaceous and one shrub species were seeded on recently decompacted minelands, with and without protection by woody debris, to measure germination, cover, and survival of seedlings. The mineland seed bank was characterized and compared to adjacent forest plant community composition, and both were compared to pre- and post-decompaction plant communities. Results showed that decompaction increased plant species richness, and transplanting herbaceous plants to constructed vernal pools and direct seeding uplands are viable options for increasing plant diversity on minelands.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Summer fieldwork was supported by the University of Kentucky, Appalachian Center in 2019.