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Dominating chemical factors in mine water induced impoverishment of the invertebrate fauna of two streams in the Durham Coalfield, UK

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Adam Jarvis, Professor Paul Younger


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Mine water pollution is causing increasing concern in the UK as some of the world's largest and longest-worked coalfields are abandoned and flooded. Many of the resulting polluting discharges are typified by higher mineral acidity (low pH), and high concentrations of iron and sulphate. Two streams, receiving mine water discharges in the Durham coalfield in northern England, have been studied to identify the major chemical factors affecting the welfare of benthic invertebrates. One of the discharges is strongly acidic (pH 3.9), and the second is marginally acidic (pH 5.3). Simultaneous analyses of hydrochemistry and invertebrate diversity and abundance demonstrate serious faunal impoverishment downstream of minewater discharges. Pathway analysis has been applied to ascertain statistically the dominating chemical factors in this faunal impoverishment. In both cases, total acidity (acidity to pH 8.3 = 612 mg l-1 as CaCO3; pH 3.9) and iron concentration (up to 112.5 mg l-1) account for nearly all of the faunal impoverishment. Other metals, sulphate and pH (in isolation from mineral acidity) are of lesser importance. Persistence of the detrimental effects of high acidity downstream of the discharges is ascribed to a slow recovery of the carbonate buffering system. These findings assist in the implementation of long-term management and remediation strategies for mine water pollution.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jarvis AP, Younger PL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Chemistry and Ecology

Year: 1997

Volume: 13

Issue: 4

Pages: 249-270

Print publication date: 01/07/1997

ISSN (print): 0275-7540

ISSN (electronic): 1026-5449

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/02757549708035531


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