Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Virginia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Lituma, C.M, J.J. Cox, S. Spears, J.W. Edwards, J. De La Cruz, L.I. Mueller and W.M Ford. 2020. Terrestrial wildlife in the post-mined landscape: status and opportunities. Pages 135-166 in: C. Zipper and J. Skousen (eds). Ecology and Management of Appalachian Coal-Mined Landscapes. Springer Publishing.


Coal mining has been one of many anthropogenic stressors that have impacted terrestrial and semi-aquatic wildlife and their habitats in the Appalachian Plateau since European settlement of the region. Creation of large grassland and early-successional habitats resulting from mining in a largely forested landscape has resulted in novel, non-analog habitat conditions throughout the Appalachian Plateau. Depending on the taxa, extent of mining at the local and landscape level, and reclamation practices, effects have ranged across a gradient of wholly negative to positive. Forest-obligate species such as woodland salamanders and forest-interior birds and/or those that depend on aquatic systems for part or all of their life cycle have been most affected. Others, such as grassland and early-successional bird species have responded favorably. Some bat species, for example, as an unintended consequence, can use legacy deep mines as winter hibernacula in a region with limited Karst geology. Recovery and recolonization of impacted wildlife that often depends not only on life strategies and species’ vagility, but also on the altered or arrest successional processes on the post-surface mine landscape. Forest-obligate species will benefit from Forest Reclamation Approach practices going forward. In the future, managers will be faced with decisions about reforestation versus maintaining open habitats depending on the conservation need of species considered. Lastly, the post-mined landscape currently is the focal point for a region-wide effort to reintroduce and restore elk (Cervus elaphus) in the Appalachian region.