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    We measured biomass and metabolism of epilithic communities on five dates in different seasons at four sites in a watershed that has received extensive restoration for acid mine drainage (AMD) through the construction of passive treatment systems. Chlorophyll a biomass and productivity directly corresponded to AMD stress from coal mining. The site downstream of extensive passive treatment had significantly greater biomass and gross primary productivity rates than the site receiving only untreated AMD, but values were below those for two reference sites, indicating incomplete recovery. The degree of difference in these metrics among sites varied seasonally, primarily related to differences in canopy cover changes, but the ranking of sites in terms of stress generally was consistent. Reference sites had a significantly greater chlorophyll a/pheophytin ratio than untreated and treated sites, also indicating AMD stressed the communities. Community respiration was less affected by AMD stress than productivity or chlorophyll a. Productivity measures are not widely used to assess AMD impacts, and have been shown to both increase and decrease with AMD stress. The elimination of herbivores in AMD-impacted streams can increase productivity in the benthic algal community. Our study found productivity decreased with increasing AMD stress. Although sites with AMD stress had reduced herbivore populations, light, nutrients and metal precipitates appear to have limited growth of AMD-tolerant algal taxa. Therefore, it appears changes in food web structure due to AMD stress had less of an effect on epilithic productivity than environmental conditions within the stream.


    Dean M DeNicola, Lee Layton, Tiffaney R Czapski. Epilithic community metabolism as an indicator of impact and recovery in streams affected by acid mine drainage. Environmental management. 2012 Dec;50(6):1035-46

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    PMID: 22961617

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