Dr. Chris Kotalik
Colorado State University.
Mineral extraction in the western USA has resulted in widespread stream impairment due to habitat degradation and water quality impacts from acid mine drainage (AMD); therefore, predicting and characterizing biological recovery to AMD remediation is essential. Traditionally, approaches to evaluate remediation success rely on numeric USEPA or state water quality standards for AMD contaminants (e.g., Cu, Zn, Cd, Fe). While these numeric criteria are important surrogates for biological health, they often fail to capture the complexity of real-world aquatic ecosystems, resulting in inaccurate descriptions of the responses that aquatic life have to these contaminants. Other approaches such as biomonitoring and field and mesocosm experiments can often better predict responses in nature, identify underlying mechanisms for sensitivity, and help inform numeric criteria protectiveness. In this talk, I will highlight the novel approaches that I have taken to assess stream benthic community responses to AMD, and provide suggestions based on this research for improving the current USEPA guidelines for developing aquatic life criteria.