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New study shows real impact of mountain-top mining on endangered species

By on November 7, 2021 0

Research has found that chronic and acute toxicity thresholds for aluminum, copper, lead and manganese, among other metals, as well as acidity levels in waterways have been exceeded thousands of times from 1985 to 2015 in areas of critical habitat and far removed from mines. are in fact.

Research revealed that chronic and acute toxicity thresholds for aluminum, copper, lead, and manganese were exceeded thousands of times from 1985 to 2015 in areas of critical habitat.

“The mixed linear models showed that the levels of manganese, sulphate, sulfur, total dissolved solids, total suspended solids and zinc increased from 6.73E + 01 to 6.87E + 05 g / L and the conductivity of 3.30E + 06 μS / cm for a percentage increase in the mined proportion of the area draining into a monitoring station ”, we read in the article. “The proportion of a drainage area that has been mined has also increased the likelihood that chronic thresholds for copper, lead and zinc required to support aquatic life will be exceeded.”

According to the authors, previous research had mistakenly assumed that the impacts of mountain-top mining were limited to the immediate area around the mines.

“We have watched mountain top mining stretch across the Appalachian landscape for years using satellite imagery,” said Christian Thomas, co-author of the article and geospatial engineer at SkyTruth. “By combining our images with data on water quality, we finally revealed how this activity harms sensitive aquatic species.”

Thomas’ co-author Mike Evans, who is a senior conservation data scientist at the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife, explained that the central Appalachians are a region of great biodiversity richness and courses in Water affected by these mines contain many threatened and endangered species, including 39 species of molluscs. , 12 fish, as well as species of crustaceans and snails. The region includes parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia where this mining often occurs.

“More than 50 federally protected species inhabit the waterways in this region, and we have not historically known the full impact of these mines, until now,” Evans said. “This research expands the ability of state and federal agencies to make better decisions that directly affect vulnerable people and wildlife.”

In the opinion of scientists, the results of this study and the same methods can now be used to improve the protection of species at risk and provide a more rigorous scientific standard for mining permitting practices in the future.


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