Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Don Tarter

Second Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


Strip mining causes major disturbances of the natural environment. One such disturbance is the creation of valley fills, which often fill in the headwaters of small streams. Runoff from these valley fills can cause heavy siltation as well as acid and heavy metal deposition downstream. One way to combat this problem is through the construction of sedimentation ponds, which slow down the flow of water so that sediment can settle out and water chemistry can be altered before the water is discharged into the stream. Since these ponds are, in effect, temporarily replacing small headwaters once present, the question is raised as to whether or not ponds support a healthy benthic macroinvertebrate community and if these ponds are undergoing succession. In this study, two separate pond systems were examined. First, two ponds that were first assessed by EPA Rapid Bioassessment Protocols in 1997 were reexamined in 2000 to determine whether or not there was a noticeable change in metrics. Taxa richness did not change for either pond from 1997 to 2000, remaining at 11 taxa present for Rollem Fork #2 and 16 taxa present for Vance Branch. Mostly members of the orders Diptera, Ephemeroptera, and Odonata represented the benthic community in the ponds. These taxa contained an abundance of tolerant members with a few facultative ones, and in the case of Vance Branch in 1997, two species of sensitive Ephemeroptera (Stenacron and Leptophlebia) that were lost in the 2000 sampling season. The modified Hilsenhoff Biotic Index and Shannon Diversity indicated that the ponds were moderately to severely disturbed in both sampling years. The percent contribution of the dominant taxon was high for both ponds in 1997 and 2000. Furthermore, dominant taxa for Rollem Fork, Oligochaete in 1997 and Chironomidae in 2000, are considered tolerant. Chironomidae, a tolerant family, dominated Vance Branch in both years. The ratio of scraper and filtering collector functional feeding groups, ratio of EPT and Chironomidae abundances, EPT index, ratio of shredder functional feeding group and total individuals, and evenness values also pointed to an unbalanced, perturbated system. Overall results in 2000 indicated that there was little difference between the benthic populations in 1997 and 2000. Additionally, the protocols point toward two moderately to severely polluted systems. However, the validity of using Rapid Bioassessment Protocols, meant for running waters, to analyze lentic environments is questioned and alternative methods for these environments are proposed. The second study, a seasonal assessment of three ponds of different ages draining the same valley fill, gave unexpected results. Again, the ponds were dominated by taxa from the orders Diptera, Ephemeroptera, and Odonata. However, a different method of assessing succession in the ponds in the seasonal study was used. These ponds were compared to an older sediment pond that is no longer impacted by mining by using STATISTICA Cluster Analysis. It was discovered that the youngest pond, WB3, was actually the least dissimilar, or most similar, to the reference pond (HBREF) in all seasons. There was also no clear evidence that the younger experimental ponds, WB3 and WB4, are becoming more like the older experimental pond, WB5. Other studies have indicated that constructed temporary ponds are likely to host a limited variety of taxa and that after a period of colonization, those taxa do not change much. It is possible that the ponds in the seasonal study are different enough in habitat, chemistry, and benthic composition, that it is impossible to base their individual succession on comparison with other ponds.


Benthic animals – Habitat.

Diptera – Ecology.

Mayflies – Ecology.

Odonata – Ecology.

Ponds – West Virginia.

Strip mining – Environmental aspects.