Distribution of Biota in a Stream Polluted by Acid Mine-Drainage
Creators:Warner, Richard W.
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Citation:The Ohio Journal of Science. v71 n4 (July, 1971), 202-215
Acidic water draining from coal mines has severely restricted the diversity of biota inhabiting Roaring Creek, eastern West Virginia. Polluted reaches of the stream (median pH values ranging from 2.8 to 3.8) were inhabited by 3 to 12 genera of bottom-dwelling invertebrates and 10 to 19 species of periphytic algae. Invertebrates tolerant of the pollution included Sialis sp., Chironomus plumosus and other Chironomidae, dytiscid beetles, and Ptilostomis sp. Predominant among the tolerant periphyton were Ulothrix tenerrima, Pinnularia termitina, Eunotia exigua, and Euglena mutabilis. Six other species of algae were tolerant of the acid mine-pollution, but were never numerous. Sections of Roaring Creek not severely polluted by acid drainage (pH medians of 4.5 or higher) supported diverse communities of 25 or more kinds of benthic animals and 27 or more species of periphytic algae. These stream reaches were inhibited by blackflies, crayfish, mayflies, stoneflies, and many species of caddisflies; these forms did not inhabit the more acidic stream reaches. Because of the complex and varying chemical composition of the acid mine-drainage, and also because of possible physical influences, measurements of pH values in the stream seemed to provide the most reliable, as well as unique, index of the effects of acid minedrainage on aquatic life.
Author Institution: Aquatic Biologist, National Field Investigations Center, Federal Water Quality Administration, United States Department of the Interior, Cincinnati, Ohio
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