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Land 2016, 5(3), 22; doi:10.3390/land5030022

Landscape-Scale Disturbance: Insights into the Complexity of Catchment Hydrology in the Mountaintop Removal Mining Region of the Eastern United States

School of Natural Resources, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6125, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
These authors contributed equally to this work.
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Academic Editors: Artemi Cerdà, Saskia Keesstra, Tammo Steenhuis and Paolo Tarolli
Received: 3 April 2016 / Revised: 14 June 2016 / Accepted: 16 June 2016 / Published: 5 July 2016
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Abstract

Few land disturbances impact watersheds at the scale and extent of mountaintop removal mining (MTM). This practice removes forests, soils and bedrock to gain access to underground coal that results in likely permanent and wholesale changes that impact catchment hydrology, geochemistry and ecosystem health. MTM is the dominant driver of land cover changes in the central Appalachian Mountains region of the United States, converting forests to mine lands and burying headwater streams. Despite its dominance on the landscape, determining the hydrological impacts of MTM is complicated by underground coal mines that significantly alter groundwater hydrology. To provide insight into how coal mining impacts headwater catchments, we compared the hydrologic responses of an MTM and forested catchment using event rainfall-runoff analysis, modeling and isotopic approaches. Despite similar rainfall characteristics, hydrology in the two catchments differed in significant ways, but both catchments demonstrated threshold-mediated hydrologic behavior that was attributed to transient storage and the release of runoff from underground mines. Results suggest that underground mines are important controls for runoff generation in both obviously disturbed and seemingly undisturbed catchments and interact in uncertain ways with disturbance from MTM. This paper summarizes our results and demonstrates the complexity of catchment hydrology in the MTM region. View Full-Text
Keywords: mountaintop removal mining; catchment hydrology; disturbance hydrology; streamflow generation; underground coal mining mountaintop removal mining; catchment hydrology; disturbance hydrology; streamflow generation; underground coal mining
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Miller, A.J.; Zégre, N. Landscape-Scale Disturbance: Insights into the Complexity of Catchment Hydrology in the Mountaintop Removal Mining Region of the Eastern United States. Land 2016, 5, 22.

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