Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Donald Tarter

Second Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


South Fork of Sand Lick Creek, Logan County, West Virginia, drains an abandoned coal strip mine which had exploited Pottsville series coalbeds (Pennsylvania strata). These strata outcrop throughout southwestern West Virginia. North Fork watershed is relatively unchanged, save a small roadcut throughout. South Fork benthic community had not recovered although mining activity had ceased about 20 years earlier. Benthic communities were analyzed with detrended correspondence analysis (DCA). Family Chironomidae predominated South Fork benthic community throughout the study. North Fork’s benthic community had as major contributors acid resistant caddisfly family Hydropsychidae, mayfly family Baetidae, and stonefly families Perlodidae and Nemouridae. Family Chironomidae exploited spate events and episodically become a major community component. Sand Lick Creek’s benthic community was a subset of North Fork’s community with similar indices but many fewer organisms. Spates were found to be the greatest contributing factor to community variation. North Fork pH was above 6.5 (high 7.66), falling to 5.23 only during a spate event. South Fork pH ranged from 3.36 to 4.82. Sand Lick Creek pH broadly ranged from 3.88 to 6.04. Spates changed North Fork water chemistry by decreasing pH and increasing cations and sulfate in solution. Flushing of perched aquifers within fractured coalbeds was indicated as the cause of this drainage chemistry change. Paradoxically lower iron concentrations in South Fork than the other streams is best explained by lack of photoreactivity recycling. A well developed canopy covered this stream reducing sunlight energy input. Aluminum remained solubilized in South Fork until confluence with North Fork since pH never rose above 5.2. Aluminum hydroxide precipitate formed a remarkable white streambed covering throughout the confluence mixing zone. This precipitate is hypothesized to be responsible for reduced organism numbers collected at Sand Lick station.


Stream ecology.


Acid mine drainage.