Effects of Sand and Gravel Mining

 Last updated: 7/16/14

This list includes resources for understanding the effects of sand and gravel mining on wetland plants, perennial seeps, and subsurface hydrology.

Besch KW, Roberts Pichette P. 1970. Effects of mining pollution on vascular plants in the Northwest Miramichi River system. Canadian Journal of Botany 48: 1647-56.

Abstract: Copper-zinc mining pollution effects on riparian and aquatic vascular plants were studied in the Northwest Miramichi River system of northern New Brunswick. After a period of 8 years, the riparian vascular flora of the river system's gravel shores has been completely eliminated or seriously reduced. The most sensitive plants are the submersed aquatic species, followed by riparian dicotyledons. Monocotyledons are less sensitive than dicotyledons and Equisetum arvense the least sensitive species. A rough index of pollution severity was devised based on the absence of species or species groups which would normally be present under unpolluted conditions.

Castro, Janine. 2006. Sediment removal bibliography. Portland, OR : US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This is an extensive bibliography on effects of gravel mining, mainly on fish and fish habitat.

Femmer, Suzanne R. 2002. Instream Gravel mining and related issues in Southern Missouri.USGS Fact Sheet 012–02.

Friends of the Gualala River. Gravel mining in the Gualala River – Environmental review documents.

Graham Environmental Services, Inc. 2008. S.M. Hentges and Sons sand and gravel mine sensitive species survey.

Hancock, Peter J. 2002. Human impacts on the stream–groundwater exchange zone.Environmental Management 29(6): 763-781.

Abstract: Active exchanges of water and dissolved material between the stream and groundwater in many porous sand- and gravel-bed rivers create a dynamic ecotone called the hyporheic zone. Because it lies between two heavily exploited freshwater resources—rivers and roundwater—the hyporheic zone is vulnerable to impacts coming to it through both of these habitats. This review focuses on the direct and indirect effects of human activity on ecosystem functions of the hyporheic zone. River regulation, mining, agriculture, urban, and industrial activities all have the potential to impair interstitial bacterial and invertebrate biota and disrupt the hydrological connections between the hyporheic zone and stream, groundwater, riparian, and floodplain ecosystems. Until recently, our scientific ignorance of yporheic processes has perhaps excused the inclusion of this ecotone in river management policy. However, this no longer is the case as we become increasingly aware of the central role that the hyporheic zone plays in the aintenance of water quality and as a habitat and refuge for fauna. To fully understand the impacts of human activity on the hyporheic zone, river managers need to work with scientists to conduct long-term studies over large stretches of river. River rehabilitation and protection strategies need to prevent the degradation of linkages between the hyporheic zone and surrounding habitats while ensuring that it remains isolated from toxicants. Strategies that prevent anthropogenic restriction of exchanges may include the periodic release of environmental flows to flush silt and reoxygenate sediments, maintenance of riparian buffers, effective land use practices, and suitable groundwater and surface water extraction policies.

Kerns, Molly Ann. 1988. Inventory and hazard assessment of Maryland's coastal sand and gravel wash plants and ponds. Coastal Resources Division, Tidewater Administration, Department of Natural Resources.

King’s Mark Environmental Review Team. 2006. Sunwood Development Corporation sand and gravel mining special permit, Hamden, Connecticut.

Kondolf, G.M. 1994. Geomorphic and environmental effects of instream gravel mining. Landscape Urban Planning 28: 225–243.

Abstract: Instream gravel mining involves the mechanical removal of gravel and sand directly from the active channel of rivers and streams. Active channel deposits are desirable as construction aggregate because they are typically durable (weak materials having been eliminated in river transport), well-sorted, and frequently located near markets or on transportation routes. Instream gravel mining commonly causes incision of the channel bed, which can propagate upstream and downstream for kilometers. As a result, bridges and other structures may be undermined, spawning gravels lost and alluvial water tables lowered. In analyzing the effects of instream gravel mining, a sediment budget analysis sheds light on the relative magnitude of gravel supply, transport and extraction. Computer models of sediment transport are simplifications of complex natural processes; they can be useful components of a sediment budget analysis but should not be relied upon alone. A historical analysis of channel change and sediment supply is needed to understand the underlying processes responsible for present conditions. While instream gravel mining can be a useful tool in flood control and river stabilization in aggrading rivers, most rivers in the developed world (certainly the vast majority below reservoirs) are not aggrading and are more prone to incision-related effects of instream gravel mining.

Kondolf, G. Mathias. 1997.Hungry water: Effects of dams and gravel mining on river channels". Environmental Management 21(4): 533-551.

Langer, William H. 2002.A general overview of the technology of in-stream mining of sand and gravel resources, associated potential environmental impacts, and methods to control potential impacts. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-153.

Langer, William H. and Belinda F. Arbogast. 2003. Environmental impacts of mining natural aggregate. In: Fabbri, Andrea G.; Gaál, Gabor; McCammon, Richard B. (Eds.) Deposit and Geoenvironmental Models for Resource Exploitation and Environmental Security. Boston : Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Murphy, Patrick B. and Robert S. Boyd. 1999. Population status and habitat characterization of the endangered plant, Sarracenia rubra subspecies alabamensis. Castanea 64(2):101-113.

Abstract: The Alabama canebrake pitcher plant, Sarracenia rubra ssp. alabamensis, is an endemic species found in just three counties of central Alabama. This study includes a census of this species, as well as an assessment of the viability of each population. Only eleven sites remain, ranging in size from 2 m super(2) to 2,200 m super(2). Numbers of individual plants at each site ranged from 4 to 2,241. There was an uneven distribution of individuals between sites, with 60% of the total occurring at just one site. Most sites were classified as seepage bogs with characteristic acid soils. Associated species included other typical wetland plants and three other kinds of carnivorous plants, and invasive woody plants were prevalent at most sites. Only three of the eleven sites were considered to contain viable populations. Threats to these sites included development, livestock grazing, mining, and the absence of fire. We conclude that S. rubra ssp. alabamensis requires immediate management action to maintain these dwindling populations.

National Marine Fisheries Service.NMFS National Gravel Extraction Policy

Packer, D. B., K. Griffin, and K. E. McGlynn. 2005.National Gravel Extraction Guidance: A review of the effects of in- and near-stream gravel extraction on anadromous fishes and their habitats, with recommendations for avoidance, minimization, and mitigation. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-F/SPO-70.

Partridge TR. 1992 Vegetation recovery following sand mining on coastal dunes at Kaitorete Spit, Canterbury, New Zealand. Biological Conservation 61: 59-71.

Abstract: A section of the extensive sand dunes at Kaitorete Spit, Canterbury, New Zealand, has been mined for sand over a period of 40 years. Unmined dunes are dominated by dense stands of the otherwise now restricted indigenous sand binder Desmoschoenus spiralis , making them an area of great conservation value. Plant communities on mined surfaces of various age and on unmined dunes were examined by using classification and ordination. Classification clearly distinguished communities of unmined and mined dunes respectively. The principal ordination gradients represent the typical landward dune sequence and the mined/unmined differences. Although there are sites on unmined dunes that carry vegetation of the mined group, there is no evidence that mined sites have recovered communities typical of the unmined dunes. The conclusion is that there is no sign of recovery of the original dune communities despite partial colonisation by Desmoschoenus.

Ripley, Earle A., Robert E. Redmann and Adele A. Crowder (eds).1996. Environmental effects of mining. Delray Beach, FL : St. Lucie Press.

Roell, Michael J. 1999. Sand and gravel mining in Missouri stream systems: Aquatic resource effects and management alternatives. Columbia,Missouri : Missouri Department of Conservation.

Scott, Michael L., Patrick B. Shafroth and Gregor T. Auble. 1999. Responses of riparian cottonwoods to alluvial water table declines. Environmental Management 23(3): 347-358.

Abstract: Populus species typically dominate riparian ecosystems throughout arid and semiarid regions of North American and efforts to minimize loss of riparian Populus requires an integrated understanding of the role of surface and groundwater dynamics in the establishment of new, and maintenance of existing, stands. In a controlled, whole-stand field experiment, we quantified responses of Populus morphology, growth, and mortality to water stress resulting from sustained water table decline following in-channel sand mining along an ephemeral sandbed stream in eastern Colorado, USA. We measured live crown volume, radial stem growth, annual branch increment, and mortality of 689 live Populus deltoides subsp. monilifera stems over four years in conjunction with localized water table declines. Measurements began one year prior to mining and included trees in both affected and unaffected areas. Populus demonstrated a threshold response to water table declines in medium alluvial sands; sustained declines ≥1 m produced leaf desiccation and branch dieback within three weeks and significant declines in live crown volume, stem growth, and 88% mortality over a three-year period. Declines in live crown volume proved to be a significant leading indicator of mortality in the following year. A logistic regression of tree survival probability against the prior year's live crown volume was significant (−2 log likelihood = 270, χ2 with 1 df = 232, P < 0.0001) and trees with absolute declines in live crown volume of ≥30 during one year had survival probabilities <0.5 in the following year. In contrast, more gradual water table declines of ~0.5 m had no measurable effect on mortality, stem growth, or live crown volume and produced significant declines only in annual branch growth increments. Developing quantitative information on the timing and extent of morphological responses and mortality of Populus to the rate, depth, and duration of water table declines can assist in the design of management prescriptions to minimize impacts of alluvial groundwater depletion on existing riparian Populus forests.

Trites, Marsha; Bayley, Suzanne E. 2009. Vegetation communities in continental boreal wetlands along a salinity gradient: Implications for oil sands mining reclamation. Aquatic Botany 91(1): 27-39.

Abstract: Oil sands mining is a major disturbance to boreal landscapes in north-eastern Alberta, Canada. Freshwater peatlands dominate the landscape prior to mining, but the post-mining reclamation landscape will have wetlands that span a salinity gradient. Little is known about the native vegetation communities in subsaline and saline marshes in the boreal region, yet these communities offer the best potential for reclamation of wetlands after oil sands mining. The overall intent of this study is to provide information on natural wetland communities along a gradient of salinities that can be used to enhance oil sands wetland reclamation. Our specific study objectives were to: (1) characterize environmental conditions of industrial and natural wetlands, (2) characterize vegetation communities (composition and diversity) in these wetlands, (3) and exlore how vegetation communities (composition and diversity) may be influenced by environmental conditions. We surveyed vegetation communities and environmental variables in 25 natural boreal wetlands along a salinity gradient and in 10 industrial marshes in the oil sands mining region. We observed an electrical conductivity (EC) range of 0.5–28mScm<sup>−1</sup> in the wetlands, indicating that salinity similar to or higher than anticipated for oil sands reclamation is naturally present in some boreal wetlands. We observed low species richness in both industrial and natural wetlands. There were 101 plant species observed in all the wetlands, with 82 species recorded in the natural wetlands and 44 species in industrial wetlands. At the plot level, richness decreased with increasing EC and pH, but increased with soil organic matter. Using Cluster Analysis and indicator species analysis we defined 16 distinct vegetation community types, each dominated by one or two species of graminoid vegetation. In general these communities resembled those of boreal or prairie marshes. Electrical conductivity, pH, and water depth were important factors correlating with community composition of the wetlands, however peat depth and soil organic content did not differ among community types. Not all community types were present in industrial wetlands, indicating that these communities may need to be planted to enhance overall diversity in future reclaimed oil sands wetlands.


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