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Thursday, April 14 8:30AM - 6:00PM

Salamanders are useful bioindicators of water quality and watershed health in eastern kentucky. John M. Yeiser1, Alice L. Jones1 and Stephen C. Richter1. Eastern Kentucky University1

In the Appalachian region, coal mining and other land-use practices by humans are threats to headwater streams and entire watersheds. Here we investigated the usefulness of Desmognathus (Dusky) Salamanders as bioindicators in streams with different mining histories in Letcher County, Kentucky. We also examined how body conditions of these salamanders are affected by water quality. We captured and measured Desmognathus salamanders in three streams, each with different mining histories. The three streams included one with no mining that served as the control in this study; a recently mined watershed with final reclamation ending nine months prior to the study; and a third that was mined in the 1970s before the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). In the third pre-SMCRA watershed, a large sediment pond was left at the head of the stream but no reclamation efforts were performed and the land has reforested on its own. Temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and specific conductivity data were collected and habitat was assessed at each site using the EPA’s high-gradient Rapid Habitat Assessment protocol. Salamanders were collected on both sides of the stream bed and measured, weighed and released within an hour of capture. Desmognathus abundance and body condition were significantly and positively correlated with habitat scores and specific conductivity, respectively. These results warrant further investigations of how salamanders can be used broadly to indicate the water quality and ecosystem health in streams across a range of disturbance and how body conditions vary among those disturbances.

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