Benthic Macroinvertebrate as Indicators of Mine Drainage Impacts and Recovery Efforts

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Eric Null, Conemaugh Valley Conservancy (CVC), “Benthic Macroinvertebrate as Indicators of Mine Drainage Impacts and Recovery Efforts”

Benthic macroinvertebrates have been used as water quality indicators for decades, but significant weight on the information that they provide has only occurred in recent years. Their communities provide a historic look at water quality due to their inability to seek refuge during times of pollution episodes. Correlating acid impacts with these “stream bugs” requires a much deeper look into the communities than some standard metrics allow.

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Benthic Macroinvertebrate as Indicators of Mine Drainage Impacts and Recovery Efforts

  1. 1. Benthic Macroinvertebrates as Indicators of Acid Mine Drainage Impacts and Recovery Efforts Conemaugh Valley Conservancy - Kiski –Conemaugh Stream Team Eric Null, Aquatic Biologist AMR Conference August 2013
  2. 2. Macroinvertebrates as Pollution Indicators • Provide a Historic Record • Can Only Move Downstream (Catastrophic Drift) • Very Noticeable Community Changes
  3. 3. Pollution • Types of Pollution – Acidic – Organic – Chemical (synthetic, industrial) – Metal Compounds (salts) – Thermal • Most Common – Acidic – Organic
  4. 4. Acid vs. Organic Macroinvertebrate Reactions • Acid – Decrease in Biomass**(what was biomass) – Decrease in Diversity – Increase in Shredder Taxa – Increase in Tolerant Taxa • Organic – Increase in Biomass – Decrease in Diversity – Decrease in EPT Taxa ** (always exceptions) – Increase in Collector and Predator Taxa
  5. 5. Acidic Pollution Indicators • Genus Level ID Necessary With Many Taxa • EPT Can Increase • Decrease in Diversity
  6. 6. Indicator Taxa High Acidity and Toxic Metals • Blood Midges • Semi Aquatic Beetle Larvae
  7. 7. Indicator Taxa Medium –Low Acidity Low Toxic Metals • Stone Flies – Acroneuria – Amphinemura – Sweltsa – Taeniopteryx • Mayflies – Baetis – Caenis – Leptophlebia – Paraleptophlebia – Stenacron – Maccaffertium • Caddis Flies – Cheumatopsyche – Hydropsyche – Chimarra – Diplectronia – Lype – Neureclipsis – Polycentropus – Rhyacophila
  8. 8. Macroinvertebrate Indicators Continued • Megaloptera – Sialis – Corydalus • Beetles – Stenelmis • Diptera – Simulidae – Tipula – Chironomidae • Crayfish – Cambarus • Dragonflies – Boyeria
  9. 9. Sources of Acidic Pollution • Mining • Precipitation (Acid Deposition) • Geologic
  10. 10. Macroinvertebrate Effects from Mining Acidity • Chronic – Depending on Severity (Metals) =Almost Total Loss of Community – Most Limiting Factor is Aluminum – Many Macros can Tolerate pH Below 4.5 • Episodic (pulse) – Low Diversity – Low Biomass – Complete Community but Mostly Tolerant Individuals (Plecoptera, Trichoptera) – Low Total Number of Individuals
  11. 11. Streams With Chronic Mine Drainage 71 14 4 33 3 3 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 EPT Total Individuals Total Taxa Examples of Chronic Acid Mine Drainage Stream A Stream B
  12. 12. Streams With Episodic Mine Drainage 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 EPT Total Individuals Total Taxa Percent Dominant Taxa 22 270 15 62 36 14 6 28 Episodic Acidification Stream A Stream B
  13. 13. Acid Precipitation Effects on Macroinvertebrate Communities • High Metals/Low pH (below 4.8) – Low Individuals – Low Diversity – Chironomidae, Semi Aquatic Beetles, Sialis • Low Metals/pH (4.0-5.8 Most Common) – Increase in Shredder Stonefly Taxa – Tolerant Cadisflies Hydropsyche, Cheumato psyche – Possible Baetis – Low Diversity – Ok Biomass Depending on Season
  14. 14. Streams with Acid Deposition High Metal vs. Low Metal 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 EPT Total Individuals Total Taxa Percent Dominant Taxa 15 39 7 7772 376 15 48 High vs. Low Metal Acid Deposition High Metal Low Metal
  15. 15. Acid Geology Effects on Macroinvertebrates • Naturally Occuring Acidity due to Geologic Strata or Bogs • Usually Lower Toxic Metal Concentrations • Prolific Shredder Stonefly Taxa • High Biomass Depending on the Season • pH Usually above 4.2 • Crayfish • Black flies • Can have Baetis • Low Diversity
  16. 16. The Tale of Limestone Testing on Acidic Geology Streams • Spruce Run • Limestone Rock Packs to Test Armoring • Stoneflies (Amphinemura) • Blackflies • Many Macroinvertebrates Colonized the Rock Packs
  17. 17. Curve Ball: Very Infertile Streams • Very Infertile Streams Exhibit Diversities and Biomasses of Acidified Streams • They are Pristine • Taxa Composition is Different • At Family Level they Look Identical to Acidified Taxa • At Genus Level they are Acid Intolerant or Facultative Taxa
  18. 18. Examples of Infertile Streams 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 EPT Total Individuals Total Taxa Percent Dominant Taxa 62 20 8 45 45 38 14 48 Infertile Streams Stream B Stream A
  19. 19. After Proper Treatment • Macroinvertebrate Communities Will Shift on the Genus Level First • Family Level Shifts Occur Much Later • Biomass May Decrease for a While • Diversity May Decrease
  20. 20. Acidified Stream Recovery 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 EPT Total Individuals Total Taxa Percent Dominant Taxa 93 61 11 50 81 27 13 22 Impacted Stream vs. Recovering Stream Impacted Recovering
  21. 21. All Acidic Conditions Discussed • Impair Brook Trout • Brook Trout will Often Recolonize Before Macroinvertebrates • If the Type of Acidic Condition is Misdiagnosed Treatment will Not Work
  22. 22. Acidified Streams Summary • Are Often Outliers When Run Through IBIs • If Further Investigation is not Deep Enough Acidity can be Blamed on Infertility • Mix Organics with Acid and it is a Whole New Ball Game • Thorough Assessment Requires Thinking Outside the Box
  23. 23. Macroinvertebrate Data Interpretation and Collection Trainings • Available at No Cost Through the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team and C-SAW • Contact Melissa Reckner 814-444-2669 mreckner@kcstreamteam.org
  24. 24. Questions?

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