Highway construction in mountainous areas can result in sedimentation of streams, negatively impacting stream habitat, water quality, and biotic communities. We assessed the impacts of construction of a segment of Corridor H, a four-lane highway, in the Lost River watershed, West Virginia, by monitoring benthic macroinvertebrate communities and water quality, before, during, and after highway construction and prior to highway use at upstream and downstream sites from 1997 through 2007. Data analysis of temporal impacts of highway construction followed a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) study design. Highway construction impacts included an increase in stream sedimentation during the construction phase. This was indicated by an increase in turbidity and total suspended solids. Benthic macroinvertebrate metrics indicated a community more tolerant during and after construction than in the period before construction. The percent of Chironomidae and the Hilsenhoff Biotic Index (HBI) increased, while percent of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) decreased. Our 10-year study addressed short-term impacts of highway construction and found that impacts were relatively minimal. A recovery of the number of EPT taxa collected after construction indicated that the benthic macroinvertebrate community may be recovering from impacts of highway construction. However, this study only addressed a period of 3 years before, 3 years during, and 4 years post construction. Inferences cannot be made concerning the long-term impacts of the highway, highway traffic, runoff, and other factors associated with highway use. Continual monitoring of the watershed is necessary to determine if the highway has a continual impact on stream habitat, water quality, and biotic integrity. ?? 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Additional publication details
Response of benthic macroinvertebrate communities to highway construction in an Appalachian watershed