Effects of Mountaintop Removal Mining on Population Dynamics of Stream Salamanders

Document Type


Publication Title

Theses and Dissertations--Forestry and Natural Resources


Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a notorious stressor of stream ecosystems in the Central Appalachians. Valley fills (VF) lead to reduced occupancy, abundance, and species richness of stream salamanders. Multiple factors may be responsible for these reductions, but specifically habitat fragmentation and degradation may reduce colonization rates and increase local extinction rates. From 2013-2015, repeated counts of salamanders were conducted in stream reaches impacted by MTR/VF and compared to counts in reference reaches to answer the question: do stream salamander population dynamics differ between stream reaches impacted by MTR/VF and reference stream reaches? I also investigated dynamics of stream habitat using measures relevant to stream salamander persistence. Accordingly, I examined number of cover objects, percent detritus, hydroperiod, and specific conductance. From the salamander capture data, colonization and survival probabilities were lower in MTR/VF reaches than reference reaches. MTR/VF reaches also had fewer cover objects, higher percent detritus, constant stream flow, and elevated specific conductance. Although specific conductance was increased in MTR/VF reaches, it was not strongly correlated with colonization and survival. I suggest reduced rates of colonization and survival in MTR/VF stream reaches are driven by inhibited dispersal and reduced individual survival due to degraded terrestrial and aquatic environments.



Publication Date