Assessing the Effects of Surface Mining on Stream-Inhabiting Amphibian Populations

Objective: To establish and compare estimates of amphibian abundance in mature forest streams and in stream sites located on land impacted by surface mining in eastern Kentucky.
There is evidence that surface mining affects stream water quality and invertebrate communities. Therefore, since stream-inhabiting amphibians are keystone predators that may indicate stream health, we aim to be able to test for an association between amphibian abundance and surface mining on streams to indicate stream quality.
Study sites are located in Robinson Forest and in the neighboring surface mining operations area. Robinson Forest is a 14,800 acre second growth forest in southeast Kentucky owned by the University of Kentucky (UK). The disturbance to watersheds in Robinson Forest relative to the rest of eastern Kentucky is much less. The areas adjacent to Robinson Forest have been highly transformed due to surface coal mining, making comparisons between the second growth forest streams and streams on the mined land easily achievable.
Our research in this area will provide a better understanding of the effects of surface mining on amphibians. Through this project, we will be able to determine which stream quality parameters are associated with patterns of amphibian abundance, allowing us to develop enhanced management and surface mining reclamation practices that benefit amphibians and other wildlife.

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