Date of Project


Document Type

Honors Thesis

School Name

School of Environmental Studies


Environmental Science

Major Advisor

Dr. Martha Carlson Mazur


Biodiversity is a key component in maintaining the valuable ecosystem services that are vital to the way humans interact with and rely on the environment. The Appalachian Region in Eastern North America is one of the most biodiverse temperate broadleaf forests in the world and is home to hundreds of endangered or endemic species. Despite the high biodiversity, the region is also heavily mined, particularly by mountain top removal, causing habitat change and pollution. Current reclamation practices for mined lands are lacking in effective reclamation criterion, and state statutes provide little or no attention to the preservation of biodiversity. Therefore, this study investigated the effect of surface top mining on biodiversity in the Central Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky using publicly available biodiversity indices and geospatial data analysis at the watershed scale while also examining reclamation effectiveness through interviews with government officials and a meta-analysis of current reclamation research. Fish biodiversity was significantly impacted in areas with high percentages of surface mines. A positive correlation was observed between surface mining and herbaceous, shrub, and barren land cover, suggesting the utilization of the grassland reclamation approach as a primary method of reclamation. Analyses indicated insufficiency in reclamation to support biodiversity in Eastern Kentucky despite policies that outline the process for reclamation being effectively written, suggesting a root cause in lack of enforcement or funding. More stringent land use approval processes and stricter enforcement are needed, along with increased funding for divisions responsible for reclamation to utilize ecologically beneficial reclamation methods that support biodiversity.