Validation of a stream and riparian habitat assessment protocol using stream salamanders in the southwest Virginia coalfields

Journal of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation
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Abstract

Within the central Appalachia Coalfields, the aquatic impacts of large-scale land uses, such as surface mining, are of particular ecological concern. Identification and quantification of land use impacts to aquatic ecosystems are a necessary first step to aid in mitigation of negative consequences to biota. However, quantifying physical environmental quality such as stream and riparian habitat often can be quite difficult, particularly when there is time or fiscal limitations. As such, standard protocols such as the U.S. EPA’s Stream Habitat Rapid Bioassessment Protocol have been established to be cost- and time-effective. This protocol estimates ten different stream and riparian conditions on a scale of 0 to 20. Unfortunately, using estimations can be problematic because of large potential variation in the scoring depending on differences in training, experience, and opinion of the personnel doing the estimations. In order to help negate these biases and provide a simplified process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) developed a functional assessment for streams that measures 11 stream and riparian variables along with watershed land use to calculate three different scores, a hydrology score, biogeochemical score, and habitat score. In our study, we examined the correlation of stream salamander presence and abundance to the three USACE scores. In the summer of 2013, we visited 70 sites in the southwest Virginia Coalfields multiple times to collect salamanders and quantify stream and riparian microhabitat parameters. Using occupancy and abundance analyses, we found strong relationships among three Desmognathus spp. and the USACE Habitat FCI score. Accordingly, the Habitat FCI score provides a reasonable assessment of physical instream and riparian conditions that may serve as a surrogate for understanding the community composition and integrity of aquatic salamander in the region.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Validation of a stream and riparian habitat assessment protocol using stream salamanders in the southwest Virginia coalfields
Series title Journal of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation
DOI 10.21000/JASMR16010045
Volume 5
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Society of Mining and Reclamation
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 22 p.
First page 45
Last page 66
Country United States
State Virginia
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