Also, the study says that mountaintop removal is causing damaging fragmentation of forests, changing the region's distribution of forest communities, raptors and songbirds, and "appears to have a negative impact on human health."
The study says a new Environmental Impact Statement -- meant to update one finalized in 2005 -- would help scientists and government agencies more fully understand all of these issues. The EPA has not announced plans for any such project.
The new study listed 10 co-authors, including researchers from the EPA, USGS and WVU.
BioScience is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
One of the co-authors was Petra Wood, a USGS wildlife biologist who, as a private citizen, took part in a legal challenge to a mountaintop removal permit proposed near her home in Cassville, in Monongalia County.
In another new study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Herpetology, Wood reported on a previous analysis that found fewer salamanders in creeks downstream from valley fills. While the study was only recently published, Wood did the research long before being involved in a mining permit case.
Streamside salamanders are indicators of water quality, and the abundance of stream amphibians has been used as an indicator of ecosystem stress.
"Valley fills appear to have significant negative effects on stream salamander abundance due to alterations in habitat structure, water quality and chemistry, and macro-invertebrate communities in streams below valley fills," the salamander study concluded.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.