Restoring forests and associated ecosystem services on Appalachian coal surface mines

Carl E. Zipper, James A. Burger, Jeffrey G. Skousen, Patrick N. Angel, Christopher D. Barton, Victor Davis, Jennifer A. Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Scopus citations

Abstract

Surface coal mining in Appalachia has caused extensive replacement of forest with non-forested land cover, much of which is unmanaged and unproductive. Although forested ecosystems are valued by society for both marketable products and ecosystem services, forests have not been restored on most Appalachian mined lands because traditional reclamation practices, encouraged by regulatory policies, created conditions poorly suited for reforestation. Reclamation scientists have studied productive forests growing on older mine sites, established forest vegetation experimentally on recent mines, and identified mine reclamation practices that encourage forest vegetation re-establishment. Based on these findings, they developed a Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) that can be employed by coal mining firms to restore forest vegetation. Scientists and mine regulators, working collaboratively, have communicated the FRA to the coal industry and to regulatory enforcement personnel. Today, the FRA is used routinely by many coal mining firms, and thousands of mined hectares have been reclaimed to restore productive mine soils and planted with native forest trees. Reclamation of coal mines using the FRA is expected to restore these lands' capabilities to provide forest-based ecosystem services, such as wood production, atmospheric carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and water quality protection to a greater extent than conventional reclamation practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-765
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Management
Volume47
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011

Keywords

  • Afforestation
  • Appalachia
  • Coal mines
  • Forest restoration
  • Land reclamation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution

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