Restoration programs are expanding worldwide, but assessments of restoration effectiveness are rare. The objectives of our study were to assess current acid-precipitation remediation programs in streams of the Allegheny Plateau ecoregion of West Virginia (USA), identify specific attributes that could and could not be fully restored, and quantify temporal trends in ecosystem recovery. We sampled water chemistry, physical habitat, periphyton biomass, and benthic macroinvertebrate and fish community structure in three stream types: acidic (four streams), naturally circumneutral (eight streams), and acidic streams treated with limestone sand (eight streams). We observed no temporal trends in ecosystem recovery in treated streams despite sampling streams that ranged from 2 to 20 years since initial treatment. Our results indicated that the application of limestone sand to acidic streams was effective in fully recovering some characteristics, such as pH, alkalinity, Ca2+, Ca:H ratios, trout biomass and density, and trout reproductive success. However, recovery of many other characteristics was strongly dependent upon spatial proximity to treatment, and still others were never fully recovered. For example, limestone treatment did not restore dissolved aluminum concentrations, macroinvertebrate taxon richness, and total fish biomass to circumneutral reference conditions. Full recovery may not be occurring because treated streams continue to drain acidic watersheds and remain isolated in a network of acidic streams. We propose a revised stream restoration plan for the Allegheny Plateau that includes restoring stream ecosystems as connected networks rather than isolated reaches and recognizes that full recovery of acidified watersheds may not be possible. ?? 2007 by the Ecological Society of America.
Additional publication details
Stream ecosystem response to limestone treatment in acid impacted watersheds of the allegheny plateau