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01-07-2003 | Research | Issue 1/2003

Environmental Management 1/2003

Recovery of the Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community in a Small Stream After Long-Term Discharges of Fly Ash

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 1/2003
Author:
John G. Smith

Abstract

Recovery of the benthic macroinvertebrate community in a small east Tennessee stream impacted by fly ash discharges from a power plant was investigated over a period of 6.5 years. The rate of recovery was greatest in the first 2 years after an initial 75% reduction in coal use led to a similar reduction in ash discharges and associated contaminants; further recovery followed after all fly ash discharges ceased. Recovery of the stream progressed through two phases. In the first phase, which lasted for approximately the first 2 years, most density and richness metrics increased considerably. In the second phase of recovery, the increases in metric values were followed by declines before fluctuating in and out of the lower reference ranges for the metrics. Detrended correspondence analyses and indicator species analyses showed that changes in species composition and community structure were ongoing throughout the second phase. Thus, the first phase was characterized by species additions, while the second phase involved species replacements and shifts in community dominants. Further recovery of the macroinvertebrate community will probably depend on additional flushing of fly ash deposits from the streambed and flood plain, because their continued presence reduces habitat quality in the stream and serves as a potential source of contaminants. Further recovery also may be limited by the availability of vagile species in nearby watersheds.

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