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Changes in macroinvertebrate community structure provide evidence of neutral mine drainage impacts

Byrne, PA and Reid, I and Wood, PJ (2012) Changes in macroinvertebrate community structure provide evidence of neutral mine drainage impacts. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 15 (2). pp. 393-404. ISSN 2050-7887

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Abstract

Contamination of aquatic environments as a consequence of metal mining is an international issue. Most
historic studies have considered the impact of acid mine drainage (pH < 6) on instream communities and
comparatively little attention has been given to sites where drainage is typically circum-neutral (6 > pH < 8).
Here, the impacts of historic mining activities on the benthic macroinvertebrate community of a circumneutral
river in Central Wales are assessed. Biotic and diversity indices, widely used for biomonitoring
purposes, indicate aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages within the Afon Twymyn to be in a good
condition, despite severe metal contamination of bed sediments and river water. However, Canonical
Correspondence Analysis identifies differences in community structure between mining impacted and
unimpacted reaches of the river associated with chalcophile (Zn, Pb, Cu, Cd) and common (Fe and Mn)
metals. Stream pH was not a significant factor structuring the macroinvertebrate community. Widely
utilised macroinvertebrate indices failed to identify impacts at the community level because they either
seek to identify impacts of a specific contaminant or are dependent on a model community response to
a given stress. The nature of metal mine discharges is temporally complex, having highly variable
chemical signatures and as a result, care is advised when interpreting and modelling community
impacts. The use of standard macroinvertebrate biotic and diversity indices in the context of the EU
Water Framework Directive could lead to erroneous classifications of aquatic ecosystem health when
used for bio-monitoring rivers affected by neutral mine drainage where other indicators are unavailable.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Natural Sciences and Psychology
Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2016 08:45
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2017 23:42
DOI or Identification number: 10.1039/C2EM30447C
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/676

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