You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:


Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

Temporal changes in taxonomic and functional diversity of fish assemblages downstream from mountaintop mining

Nathaniel P. Hitt and Douglas B. Chambers
Freshwater Science
Vol. 33, No. 3 (September 2014), pp. 915-926
DOI: 10.1086/676997
Stable URL:
Page Count: 12
  • Download PDF
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
We're having trouble loading this content. Download PDF instead.


AbstractMountaintop mining (MTM) affects chemical, physical, and hydrological properties of receiving streams, but the long-term consequences for fish-assemblage structure and function are poorly understood. We sampled stream fish assemblages using electrofishing techniques in MTM exposure sites and reference sites within the Guyandotte River basin, USA, during 2010–2011. We calculated indices of taxonomic diversity (species richness, abundance, Shannon diversity) and functional diversity (functional richness, functional evenness, functional divergence) to compare exposure and reference assemblages between seasons (spring and autumn) and across years (1999–2011). We based temporal comparisons on 2 sites that were sampled during 1999–2001 by Stauffer and Ferreri (2002). Exposure assemblages had lower taxonomic and functional diversity than reference assemblages or simulated assemblages that accounted for random variation. Differences in taxonomic composition between reference and exposure assemblages were associated with conductivity and aqueous Se concentrations. Exposure assemblages had fewer species, lower abundances, and less biomass than reference assemblages across years and seasons. Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) and Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) became numerically dominant in exposure assemblages over time because of their persistence and losses of other taxa. In contrast, species richness increased over time in reference assemblages, a result that may indicate recovery from drought. Mean individual biomass increased as fish density decreased and most obligate invertivores were apparently extirpated at MTM exposure sites. Effects of MTM were not related to physical-habitat conditions but were associated with water-quality variables, which may limit quality and availability of benthic macroinvertebrate prey. Simulations revealed effects of MTM that could not be attributed to random variation in fish assemblage structure.

Notes and References

This item contains 66 references.

Literature Cited
  • ['Adams, S. B., and M. L. Warren. 2005. Recolonization by warmwater fishes and crayfishes after severe drought in upper coastal plain hill streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 134:1173−1192.']
  • ['Amos, J., and D. Campagna. 2011. Thirty years of mountaintop removal mining: analysis using satellite images and digital topographic data. SkyTruth, Shepherdstown, West Virginia. (Available from:']
  • ['Balon, E. K. 1975. Reproductive guilds of fishes: a proposal and definition. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 32:821−864.']
  • ['Bernhardt, E. S., and M. A. Palmer. 2011. The environmental costs of mountaintop mining valley fill operations for aquatic ecosystems of the Central Appalachians. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1223:39−57.']
  • ['Chambers, D. B., and T. Messinger. 2001. Benthic invertebrate communities and their responses to selected environmental factors in the Kanawha River basin, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4021. US Geological Survey, Charleston, West Virginia.']
  • ['Cornwell, W. K., D. W. Schwilk, and D. D. Ackerly. 2006. A trait-based test for habitat filtering: convex hull volume. Ecology 87:1465−1471.']
  • ['Detenbeck, N. E., and D. A. Cincotta. 2008. Comparability of a regional and state survey: effects on fish IBI assessment for West Virginia, U.S.A. Hydrobiologia 603:279–300.']
  • ['Dunham, J. B., and G. L. Vinyard. 1997. Relationships between body mass, population density, and the self-thinning rule in stream-living salmonids. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54:1025–1030.']
  • ['Frimpong, E. A., and P. L. Angermeier. 2009. FishTraits: a database of ecological and life-history traits of freshwater fishes of the United States. Fisheries 34:487–495.']
  • ['Fulk, F., B. Autrey, J. Hutchens, J. Gerritsen, J. Burton, C. Cresswell, and B. Jessup. 2003. Ecological assessment of streams in the coal mining region of West Virginia using data collected by U.S. EPA and environmental consulting firms. EPA 903-R-00-0013B. National Exposure Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio.']
  • ['Gorman, O. T. 1986. Assemblage organization of stream fishes: the effect of adventitious streams. American Naturalist 128:611–616.']
  • ['Gotelli, N. J., R. M. Dorazio, A. M. Ellison, and G. D. Grossman. 2010. Detecting temporal trends in species assemblages with bootstrapping procedures and hierarchical models. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences 365:3621–3631.']
  • ['Griffith, M. B., S. B. Norton, L. C. Alexander, A. I. Pollard, and S. D. LeDuc. 2012. The effects of mountaintop mines and valley fills on the physiochemical quality of stream ecosystems in the central Appalachians: a review. Science of the Total Environment 417/418:1–12.']
  • ['Hartman, K. J., M. D. Kaller, J. W. Howell, and J. A. Sweka. 2005. How much do valley fills influence headwater streams? Hydrobiologia 532:91–102.']
  • ['Hill, T. D., and D. W. Willis. 1994. Influence of water conductivity on pulsed AC and pulsed DC electrofishing catch rates for largemouth bass. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 14:202−207.']
  • ['Hitt, N. P., and P. L. Angermeier. 2008a. Evidence for fish dispersal from spatial analysis of stream network topology. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 27:304–320.']
  • ['Hitt, N. P., and P. L. Angermeier. 2008b. River-stream connectivity affects fish bioassessment performance. Environmental Management 42:132−150.']
  • ['Hitt, N. P., and P. L. Angermeier. 2011. Fish community and bioassessment responses to stream network position. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 30:296−309.']
  • ['Hopkins, R. L., and J. C. Roush. 2013. Effects of mountaintop mining on fish distributions in central Appalachia. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 22:578−586.']
  • ['Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.']
  • ['Karr, J. R. 1981. Assessment of biotic integrity using fish communities. Fisheries 6(6):21−27.']
  • ['Laliberté, E., and B. Shipley. 2011. FD: measuring functional diversity from multiple traits, and other tools for functional ecology. R package version 1.0−11. R Project for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. (Available from:']
  • ['Larimore, R. W., W. F. Childers, and C. Heckrotte. 1959. Destruction and re-establishment of stream fish and invertebrates affected by drought. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 88:261−285.']
  • ['Lazorchak, J. M., B. H. Hill, D. K. Averill, D. V. Peck, and D. J. Klemm. 2000. Environmental monitoring and assessment program surface waters: field operations and methods for measuring the ecological condition of non-wadeable rivers and streams. US Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio.']
  • ['Lemly, A. D. 1985. Suppression of native fish populations by green sunfish in first-order stream of Piedmont North Carolina. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 114:705−712.']
  • ['Lemly, A. D., and J. P. Skorupa. 2007. Technical issues affecting the implementation of US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed fish tissue-based aquatic criterion for selenium. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 3:552−558.']
  • ['Leonard, P. M., and D. J. Orth. 1986. Application and testing of an Index of Biotic Integrity in small, coolwater streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 115:401−414.']
  • ['Lévêque, C., T. Oberdoff, D. Paugy, M. L. J. Stiassny, and P. A. Tedesco. 2008. Global diversity of fish (Pisces) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia 595:545−567.']
  • ['Lindberg, T. T., E. S. Bernhardt, R. Bier, A. M. Helton, R. B. Merola, A. Vengosh, and R. T. di Giulio. 2011. Cumulative impacts of mountaintop mining on an Appalachian watershed. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108:20929−20934.']
  • ['Luck, G. W., A. Carter, and L. Smallbone. 2013. Changes in bird functional diversity across multiple land uses: interpretations of functional redundancy depend on functional group identity. PLoS ONE 8:e63671.']
  • ['Mason, N. W. H., F. de Bello, D. Mouillot, S. Pavoine, and S. Dray. 2012. A guide for using functional diversity indices to reveal changes in assembly processes along ecological gradients. Journal of Vegetation Science 24:794−806.']
  • ['Mason, N. W. H., D. Mouillot, W. G. Lee, and J. B. Wilson. 2005. Functional richness, functional evenness, and functional divergence: the primary components of functional diversity. Oikos 111:112−118.']
  • ['Matthews, M. J., and E. Marsh-Matthews. 2003. Effects of drought on fish across axes of space, time, and ecological complexity. Freshwater Biology 48:1232−1253.']
  • ['May, T. W., J. F. Fairchild, J. D. Petty, M. J. Walther, J. Lucero, M. Delvaux, J. Manring, and M. Armbruster. 2007. An evaluation of selenium concentrations in water, sediment, invertebrates, and fish from the Solomon River basin. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 137:213−232.']
  • ['McCulloch, W. L., W. L. Goodfellow, and J. A. Black. 1993. Characterization, identification, and confirmation of total dissolved solids as effluent toxicants. Environmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment 2:213−227.']
  • ['McDonald, B. G., and P. M. Chapman. 2007. Selenium effects: a weight-of-evidence approach. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 3:129–136.']
  • ['McGarvey, D. J., and J. M. Johnston. 2013. ‘Fishing’ for alternatives to mountaintop mining in southern West Virginia. Ambio 42:298−308.']
  • ['Merovich, G. T., J. T. Petty, M. P. Stanger, and J. B. Fulton. 2013. Hierarchical classification of stream condition: a house-neighborhood framework for establishing conservation priorities in complex riverscapes. Freshwater Science 32:874−891.']
  • ['Merriam, E. R., J. T. Petty, G. T. Merovich, J. B. Fulton, and M. P. Strager. 2011. Additive effects of mining and residential development on stream conditions in a central Appalachian watershed. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 30:399−418.']
  • ['Messinger, T. 2003. Comparison of storm response of streams in small, unmined and valley-filled watersheds, 1999–2001, Ballard Fork, West Virginia. Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4303. US Geological Survey, Charleston, West Virginia.']
  • ['Mouchet, M. A., S. Villéger, N. W. H. Mason, and D. Mouillot. 2010. Functional diversity measures: an overview of their redundancy and their ability to discriminate community assembly rules. Functional Ecology 24:867−876.']
  • ['NDMC (National Drought Mitigation Center). 2013. Drought monitor: state-of-the-art blend of science and subjectivity. University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Available from:']
  • ['Nicholson, S. W., C. L. Dicken, J. D. Horton, K. A. Labay, M. P. Foose, and J. A. L. Mueller. 2007. Preliminary integrated geologic map databases for the United States: Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Open File Report 2005-1324. US Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia.']
  • ['Oksanen, J., F. G. Blanchet, R. Kindt, P. Legendre, P. R. Minchin, R. B. O’Hara, G. L. Simpson, P. Solymos, M. Henry, H. Stevens, and H. Wagner. 2013. vegan: community ecology package. R package version 2.0-7. R Project for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. (Available from:']
  • ['Pakeman, R. J. 2011. Functional diversity indices reveal the impacts of land use intensification on plant community assembly. Journal of Ecology 99:1143−1151.']
  • ['Palmer, M. A., E. S. Bernhardt, W. H. Schlesinger, K. N. Eshleman, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, M. S. Hendryx, A. D. Lemly, G. E. Likens, O. L. Loucks, M. E. Power, P. S. White, and P. R. Wilcock. 2010. Mountaintop mining consequences. Science 327:148−149.']
  • ['Paybins, K. S., T. Messinger, J. H. Eychaner, D. B. Chambers, and M. D. Kozar. 2000. Water quality in the Kanawha–New River basin, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, 1996–98. Circular 1204. US Geological Survey, Washington, DC.']
  • ['Petchey, O. L., and K. J. Gaston. 2006. Functional diversity: back to the basics and looking forward. Ecology Letters 5:402−411.']
  • ['Poff, N. L. 1997. Landscape filters and species traits: towards mechanistic understanding and prediction in stream ecology. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16:391−409.']
  • ['Pond, G. J. 2010. Patterns of Ephemeroptera taxa loss in Appalachian headwater streams (Kentucky, USA). Hydrobiologia 641:185–201.']
  • ['Pond, G. J., M. E. Passmore, F. A. Borsuk, L. Reynolds, and C. J. Rose. 2008. Downstream effects of mountaintop coal mining: comparing biological conditions using family- and genus-level macroinvertebrate bioassessment tools. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 27:717−737.']
  • ['Presser, T. S., and S. N. Luoma. 2010. A methodology for ecosystem-scale modeling of selenium. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 6:685–710.']
  • ['Schlosser, I. J. 1991. Stream fish ecology: a landscape perspective. BioScience 41:704–712.']
  • ['Simon, T. P. 1999. Assessment of Balon’s reproductive guilds with application to Midwestern North American freshwater fishes. Pages 97–121 in T. P. Simon (editor). Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.']
  • ['Stauffer, J. R., and C. P. Ferreri. 2002. Characterization of stream fish assemblages in selected regions of mountain top removal/valley fill coal mining. Draft programmatic environmental impact statement on mountaintop mining/valley fills in Appalachia. EPA 903-R-00-0013B. US Environmental Protection Agency, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.']
  • ['Stewart, R., M. Grosell, D. Buchwalter, N. Fisher, S. Luoma, T. Mathews, P. Orr, and W. Wang. 2010. Bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of selenium. Pages 93–140 in P. M. Chapman, W. J. Adams, M. L. Brooks, C. G. Delos, S. N. Luoma, W. A. Maher, H. M. Ohlendorf, T. S. Presser, and D. P. Shaw (editors). Ecological assessment of selenium in the aquatic environment. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Pensacola, Florida.']
  • ['USEPA (US Environmental Protection Agency). 2005. Mountaintop mining/valley fills in Appalachia. Final Programmatic Environmental Impacts Statement. EPA 9-03-R-05002. US Environmental Protection Agency, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.']
  • ['USEPA (US Environmental Protection Agency). 2011a. A field-based aquatic life benchmark for conductivity in central Appalachian streams (final report). EPA/600/R-10/023F. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.']
  • ['USEPA (US Environmental Protection Agency). 2011b. The effects of mountaintop mines and valley fills on aquatic ecosystems of the Central Appalachian coalfields. EPA/600/R-09/138F. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.']
  • ['Verberk, W. C. E. P., C. G. E. van Noordwijk, and A. G. Hildrew. 2013. Delivering on a promise: integrating species traits to transform descriptive community ecology into a predictive science. Freshwater Science 32:531–547.']
  • ['Villéger, S., N. W. H. Mason, and D. Mouillot. 2008. New multidimensional functional diversity indices for a multifaceted framework in functional ecology. Ecology 89:2290–2301.']
  • ['Villéger, S., J. R. Miranda, D. F. Hernández, and D. Mouillot. 2010. Contrasting changes in taxonomic vs. functional diversity of tropical fish communities after habitat degradation. Ecological Applications 20:1512–1522.']
  • ['Wiley, J. B., R. D. Evaldi, J. H. Eychaner, and D. B. Chambers. 2001. Reconnaissance of stream geomorphology, low streamflow, and stream temperature in the mountaintop coal-mining region, southern West Virginia, 1999-2000. Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4092. US Geological Survey, Charleston, West Virginia.']
  • ['Winemiller, K. O., and K. A. Rose. 1992. Patterns of life-history diversification in North American fishes: implications for population regulation. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 49:2196–2218.']
  • ['Wolman, M. G. 1954. A method of sampling coarse river-bed material. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 35:951–956.']
  • ['WVDEP (West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection). 2010. Selenium-induced developmental effects among fishes in select West Virginia waters. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Charleston, West Virginia. (Available from:']