Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaOn Tuesday, August 3rd, as part of the Ecological Society of America's (ESA) 95th Annual Meeting, a team of scientists will discuss the environmental impacts of surface mining in the central Appalachians. Home to some of the most diverse habitats on the continent, Appalachian forests and streams are being permanently altered by mountaintop removal and valley fill mining. This coal extraction procedure involves felling trees, stripping soils, blasting mountains, and filling valleys with mining debris.
Dr. William H. Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the organizer of the session commented, "While our nation's attention is fixed on the oil spill in the Gulf, it's important to remember that other North American ecosystems are being assaulted by our appetite for fossil fuel. Mountaintop mining is transforming landscapes in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and southern Virginiato the detriment of forest and freshwater resources."
The session will draw on current science to discuss what can be done to ameliorate the impacts of mountaintop removal and valley fill mining, in the face of growing national dependence on coal as an energy source. Among the ills associated with the procedure: the destruction of diverse, old growth deciduous forests and the burying of small streams that are a vital part of the greater Appalachian watershed. To date, more than 1,700 miles of Appalachian stream channels have been damaged by mining spoils. In some regions, as much as 35% of the watershed has been mined, and active mines cover 12-15% of the landscape.
Participant Dr. Emily Bernhardt of Duke University reports, "There are no examples of successful post-mining stream restoration. Headwater streams are buried in mining debris. They leak dissolved solids, such as selenium, proliferating disturbance effects downstream into seemingly pristine sites. Toxic runoff can persist for decades, compromis
|Contact: Lori M. Quillen|
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies