Mountaintop Mining Causes 40 Percent Loss of Aquatic Biodiversity

by Marie Claire Chelini, Duke University
September 1, 2021

DURHAM, N.C. – Trickling down over rocks, surrounded by wildflowers and ferns, Appalachian mountain streams are chock-full of life. They hold some of the world’s greatest diversity of freshwater animals, including many species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

But this biological diversity is severely threatened by mountaintop coal mining, whose downstream pollution impacts many of these species, according to a study in the September 2021 issue of the journal Ecological Applications.

Researchers found  that the effects of mountaintop coal mining are even more widespread than previously reported: Streams from heavily mined watersheds harbor 40% fewer species than streams with cleaner water.

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