Field and LiDAR data observations of erosion on anthropogenic valley fills and associated landscape produced by mountaintop removal/valley fill coal mining in Central Appalachia

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Miles Reed, Steve Kite


Mountaintop removal/valley fill coal mining (MTR/VF) in Central Appalachia has buried an estimated 4000 km of headwater streams, but the geomorphic implications of the constructed anthropogenic valley fills and associated mined landscape have been studied very little. This landscape requires no maintenance in perpetuity once reclamation is considered to be complete. The first ever field-based study of erosional landforms on this type of mined landscape allowed for the subsequent classification of gullies and landslides within nine regional LiDAR datasets in a transect from eastern Kentucky to central West Virginia. Field observations indicate that gullies are associated with the overtopping of or intentional discharge from drainage systems. Nine-hundred ninety-one manually identified gullies were observed on 375 km2 of mined landscape covered by the LiDAR datasets. Gullies were predominantly associated with the perimeter of the mined landscape, and the perimeter explained much of the variance within the number of gullies (R-squared = 0.72). Landslides were more abundant by a factor of 13 in a Kentucky dataset examined for landslides occurring along the perimeter of the mined landscape when compared to a West Virginia dataset. In all nine datasets, 21 landslides were observed within fully reclaimed valley fills, which was previously undocumented phenomenon. Previously measured regional differences in the angle of friction of mining spoils may explain the abundance of gullies and landslides in eastern Kentucky relative to West Virginia. Observations of erosion on the regional extensive MTR/VF landscape warrant further field and modeling studies to better ascertain future impacts.



Earth Sciences, Geomorphology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


LiDAR, Anthropogenic geomorphology, coal mining, gully erosion


Published: 2019-04-19 19:56


GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.1

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