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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 24 No. 1, p. 116-125
     
    Received: June 7, 1993


    * Corresponding author(s): sls@fscvax.wvnet.edu
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doi:10.2134/jeq1995.00472425002400010017x

Effects of Acidification on Bryophyte Communities in West Virginia Mountain Streams

  1. Steven L. Stephenson *,
  2. Susan Moyle Studlar,
  3. Carolyn J. McQuattie and
  4. Pamela J. Edwards
  1. Dep. of Biology, Fairmont State College, Fairmont, WV 26554;
    Dep. of Biology, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506;
    USDA Forest Service, 359 Main Road, Delaware, OH 43015;
    USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Lab., Parsons, WV 26287.

Abstract

Abstract

Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) are often more responsive to water chemistry changes than are vascular plants. In this study, the relationships of bryophyte communities to stream pH and water chemistry were studied, using six streams on or near the Fernow Experimental Forest in Tucker County, West Virginia. Streams were surveyed with line transects using stratified random sampling. Bryophyte communities, based on species composition and structure, fell into three groups, corresponding to basic, moderately acidic, and very acidic stream water. For streams with sandstone beds, species diversity declined with decreasing pH, and no bryophytes were present at pH 3.15. The dominant species in moderately acidic to highly acidic streams is Scapania undulata, a species found to have exceptional tolerance to high acidity and toxic metal levels in Europe and Japan. Scapania undulata was transplanted from a stream with a pH of 5.97 to one with a pH of 3.15. In 3 mo, ultrastructural damage was observed. Acidity (pH) probably was not the only factor involved in controlling species composition and cell ultrastructure, since the two most acidic streams are subject to acid mine drainage and have very high concentrations of dissolved solids, particularly SO4 and Al. Other trace metals commonly associated with acidic surface waters also may have contributed to the differences in species composition.

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