by Brooks Hays
Raleigh, N.C. (UPI) Feb 08, 2016
The region of Appalachia is defined by the Appalachian Mountains, but new research suggests Central Appalachia is a bit flatter than it once was thanks to mountaintop mining.
After analyzing pre- and post-mining topographic data in southern West Virginia, researchers at Duke University determined that some parts of Central Appalachia are 60 percent flatter than they were prior to excavation.
Researchers shared their analysis in a new paper, published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
"There hasn't been a large-scale assessment of just the simple full topographic impact of mountaintop mining, which occupies more than 10 percent of the land in the region we studied," lead study author Matthew Ross, a PhD student in ecology, said in a news release. "[We found] the impact is deep and extensive. It is locally large and more wide-ranging than other forms of mining."
Across the entire region, average slope of the land declined 10 degrees in the wake of mountaintop coal removal.
Ross and his colleagues say both scientists and policy makers fail to appreciate the impact of mountaintop removal mining as compared to other types of industrial land use.
"Mountaintop mining is penetrating much more deeply into the earth than other land use in the region like forestry, agriculture or urbanization," Ross explained.
The removal of large portions of the Appalachians' ridges has left deep rifts -- referred to as "valley fills" -- affecting water runoff and other geological cycles in ways scientists don't yet fully understand. Where soil was once a few feet deep, it is now sometimes several hundred feet deep.
Scientists say water running through these deep fills more easily picks up heavy metals and toxins leftover from the mining process. Previous research has shown rivers and streams in closer vicinity to mountaintop mines host higher concentrations of minerals.
"We have data that the water quality impacts can last at least 30 years, but the geomorphology impacts might last thousands of years," said Ross. "Once you have these flat plateaus, it sets up a whole new erosion machine and a whole new way that the landscape will be shaped into the future."
Surviving the Pits
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|