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Mining activities frequently impact wildlife habitats, and a wide range of habitats may require evaluations of the linkages between wildlife and environmental stressors common to mining activities (e.g., physical alteration of habitat, releases of chemicals such as metals and other inorganic constituents as part of the mining operation). Wetlands, for example, are frequently impacted by mining activities. Within an ecological assessment for a wetland, toxicity evaluations for representative species may be advantageous to the site evaluation, since these species could be exposed to complex chemical mixtures potentially released from the site. Amphibian species common to these transition zones between terrestrial and aquatic habitats are one key biological indicator of exposure, and integrated approaches which involve both field and laboratory methods focused on amphibians are critical to the assessment process. The laboratory and field evaluations of a wetland in western Montana illustrates the integrated approach to risk assessment and causal analysis. Here, amphibians were used to evaluate the potential toxicity associated with heavy metal-laden sediments deposited in a reservoir. Field and laboratory methods were applied to a toxicity assessment for metals characteristic of mine tailings to reduce potential “lab to field” extrapolation errors and provide adaptive management programs with critical site-specific information targeted on remediation.
amphibians, wetlands, mining impacts, metals, in situ toxicity tests
Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Columbia Environmental Research Center, HeronWorks Field Office, Brooks, OR