To help meet the goals of the Surface-Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, the U.S. Geological Survey is assessing the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of surface water within the coal-mining region of southwestern Indiana. This report discusses benthic-invertebrate and periphyticalgal communities in streams draining homogeneous-agricultural, forested, active/reclaimed-mine, reclaimed-mine, and unreclaimed-mine watersheds--and relates the biological communities to the physical and chemical characteristics of the streams.
Alkalinity and pH were lower and the concentrations of dissolved solids, suspended solids, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfate, iron, manganese, aluminum, and zinc were higher in unreclaimed-mine watersheds than in the other land-use watersheds.
Numbers and community diversity of benthic invertebrates were less at sites affected by mining than at agricultural or forested sites, owing to (1) synergistic effects of low pH, metals, and unsuitable habitat and (2) lack of colonizing drift organisms because of the small drainage area upstream from the mined area. Only a few organisms, such as the caddisflies Cheumatopsyche and Hydropsyche and the chironomids Chironomus and Cricotopus were found in streams draining mine areas.