Small mammal response to vegetation and spoil conditions on a reclaimed surface mine in eastern Kentucky

Jeffery L. Larkin, David S. Maehr, James J. Krupa, John J. Cox, Karen Alexy, David E. Unger, Christopher Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Ecologically effective mine reclamation is characterized by the return of pre-mining floral and faunal communities. Excessive soil compaction typically results in delayed succession and low species diversity on reclaimed mine lands. We compared small mammal abundance and diversity among three levels of compaction in reforestation plots on an eastern Kentucky surface mine during 2004 and 2005. Compaction levels included 1) no compaction (loose-dumped), 2) light compaction (strike-off), and 3) high compaction (standard reclamation). Peromyscus leucopus (White-footed Mouse) made up 98% (295 of 300) of all individuals captured. In 2004, loose-dumped plots had more White-footed Mice (n = 108, mean = 36, SE = 0.58) than high-compaction plots (n = 62, mean = 20.6, SE = 3.10). Strike-off plots had more White-footed Mice (n = 59; mean = 19.6, SE = 0.66) than loose-dumped (n = 46, mean = 15.3, SE = 1.45) or high-compaction (n = 20, mean = 6.6, SE = 2.19) plots in 2005. Canopy cover and large rocks that created crevices appear to have been the factors that most influenced White-footed Mouse abundance on our study sites. Low small-mammal species diversity across all treatments was likely due to the presence of low quality habitat resulting from a poorly developed ground layer and soil compared to that found in undisturbed forest. Additionally, an insufficient amount of time since reclamation for small-mammal colonization from surrounding forests and a relatively large matrix of non-forested reclaimed mineland between our plots and potential source habitats may have also limited small-mammal diversity. To promote biodiversity and provide better wildlife habitat, we suggest that mine operators consider using reclamation methods that promote surface and vegetation heterogeneity and connectivity to source habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-412
Number of pages12
JournalSoutheastern Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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