The impact of surface mine reclamation on headwater streams in Southwest Virginia

William J. Matter, John J. Ney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Recovery of headwater streams following the cessation of mining and the application of terrestrial (vegetative) reclamation techniques was assessed by comparison of water quality and aquatic biota in two such systems (reclaimed four to seven years) with that of an unimpacted stream and of streams draining mine areas which were abandoned without reclamation. Alkalinity, hardness, sulfate, and conductivity were elevated in the reclaimed mine streams as were fine-particle suspended solids and sediment. Overall water quality was comparable to streams draining unreclaimed lands. Benthic invertebrate and fish populations were significantly lower in abundance in the reclaimed mine streams than in the reference stream and showed less taxonomic richness and stability; they were similar in these respects to the biota of the unreclaimed mine streams. Continued sedimentation from mined areas and haul roads affected stream habitat and appeared to be the major factor limiting biotic recovery. These findings emphasize that terrestrial reclamation does not assure lotic restoration. Water quality criteria merit consideration in the refinement of reclamation procedures for mined lands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1981


  • benthic invertebrates
  • fish
  • streams
  • strip mining
  • water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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