Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

J. Todd Petty

Committee Co-Chair

Kyle J. Hartman

Committee Member

J. Steven Kite


Large scale surface mining in the central Appalachians causes significant alteration of headwater catchments, and these impacts may be offset through implementation of stream restoration projects. As an example, several habitat enhancement structures (cross-vanes and j-hooks) were constructed along a 13.7 km section of the Little Coal River as mitigation for mining impacts in the region. The objectives of our study were to: 1-quantify changes in channel morphology, habitat quality, sediment composition, bank stability, biological communities and organic matter processing in response to habitat enhancing structures; 2-relate changes in structural and functional attributes of the Little Coal River mainstem to losses resulting from mining impacts to headwater catchments; and 3-develop a long term restoration monitoring plan for the Little Coal River. The study area included three 1.5 -- 2 km segments along the Little Coal River mainstem. The upstream segment contained 15 habitat enhancement structures that were constructed between 2005-2006. The downstream segment contained no structures at the beginning of the study (Spring 2009). Twenty structures were then constructed in the downstream segment during late Fall 2009 and Spring 2010. The middle segment contained no structures and served as our reference. Sampling for physical, chemical, and biological attributes occurred seasonally from Spring 2009 -- Fall 2010. Our results indicate that the beneficial effects of structures included: increased fish habitat quality and bed complexity, increased substrate diversity, and increased macroinvertebrate biomass and diversity associated with substrate changes. Most measures of fish assemblages did not respond to restoration actions. Poor water quality in the form of elevated sulfates and total dissolved solids (TDS) may be a critical factor limiting ecological benefits of habitat restoration in the Little Coal River. Furthermore, traditional measures of headwater function, such as organic matter decomposition and retention, were not significantly affected by structural enhancement actions. Consequently, effective management of aquatic resources in the central Appalachians must couple habitat restoration projects on larger river mainstems with protection of headwater catchment functions and effective management of water quality at a watershed scale.