Date of Graduation
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Wood Science and Technology
Petra Bohall Wood.
Mountaintop removal mining, a mining technique used in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and nearby states, converts mature forests to grassland and shrub-pole habitats. I sampled terrestrial herpetofauna using drift fences with pitfalls and funnel traps from 2000--2002 to evaluate habitat use of unmined native habitat (intact forest), mined habitat (reclaimed grassland, reclaimed shrub-pole habitat, and fragmented forest), and early successional off-mine habitats that were created by other types of disturbance and were structurally similar to reclaimed grasslands and reclaimed shrubpole habitats. I searched transects in valley fill and reference streams from 2001--2002 to evaluate impacts of valley fill construction on streamside salamanders and sampled coverboard transects that traversed reclaimed habitats and adjacent forests from 2001--2002 to determine edge effects of reclaimed mine habitat on salamanders. Salamander relative abundance levels were lower in reclaimed habitats in all three components of this study and increased into forests with increasing distance from reclaimed habitat edges. Snake abundance and species richness were higher in reclaimed habitats. Creation of grassland and shrub-pole habitats adversely affected less mobile habitat specialists and benefited more mobile habitat generalists. Anuran species richness and abundance did not differ among treatments; lizards and turtles were not captured in levels sufficient to conduct statistical analyses.;Soil compaction on and reduced vertical structure of reclaimed mine surfaces may deter salamanders from burrowing into minesoils. Reduced vertical structure of reclaimed habitats may make them too dry for salamanders. Higher small mammal abundance on reclaimed habitats could have favored snakes. More silt cover in valley fill streams may have reduced available habitat for stream salamanders.;Time since disturbance varied from 10--28 years in reclaimed habitats. Salamander populations in these reclaimed habitats have not reached abundance levels found in intact forests. Past research has shown that salamander populations in clearcut areas may recover and reach pre-cut abundance levels in 15--70 years. Both mountaintop removal mining and clearcutting involve tree removal. However, tree removal associated with mountaintop removal mining covers a larger area and is coupled with large-scale soil removal. These features may mean that salamander populations on reclaimed mines will take as long or longer than 15--70 years to reach levels of intact forests.
Williams, Jennifer Mravintz, "Impacts on terrestrial and streamside herpetofauna by mountaintop removal mining in southern West Virginia" (2003). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 1938.