Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 14, pp 3731–3734 | Cite as

Horizontal cliffs: mountaintop mining and climate change

  • Paul John Beggs
Brief Communication


Poleward and upward shifts in ranges in plant and animal species are amongst the most confident impacts of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems. While mountain tops have long been recognised as an important limit in this regard, the implications of the practice of mountaintop removal mining, i.e., acting counter to the upward shift of species, have yet to be considered. In regions where climate warming and mountaintop mining occur together, species face increased risk of range contraction and local extinction.


Climate change Species Upward shift Mountaintop removal mining Range contraction Local extinction 



The author thanks two anonymous reviewers for their positive and constructive comments on the manuscript.


  1. Bertrand R, Lenoir J, Piedallu C, Riofrío-Dillon G, de Ruffray P, Vidal C, Pierrat J-C, Gégout J-C (2011) Changes in plant community composition lag behind climate warming in lowland forests. Nature 479:517–520PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Colwell RK, Lees DC (2000) The mid-domain effect: geometric constraints on the geography of species richness. Trends Ecol Evol 15:70–76PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Colwell RK, Brehm G, Cardelús CL, Gilman AC, Longino JT (2008) Global warming, elevational range shifts, and lowland biotic attrition in the wet tropics. Science 322:258–261PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Davis CE, Duffy RJ (2009) King Coal vs. Reclamation: federal regulation of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. Admin Soc 41:674–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Engler R, Randin CF, Thuiller W, Dullinger S, Zimmermann NE, Araújo MB, Pearman PB, Le Lay G, Piedallu C, Albert CH, Choler P, Coldea G, De Lamo X, Dirnböck T, Gégout J-C, Gómez-García D, Grytnes J-A, Heegaard E, Høistad F, Nogués-Bravo D, Normand S, Puşcaş M, Sebastià M-T, Stanisci A, Theurillat J-P, Trivedi MR, Vittoz P, Guisan A (2011) 21st century climate change threatens mountain flora unequally across Europe. Glob Change Biol 17:2330–2341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gilbert N (2010) Mountaintop mining plans close to defeat: environmental review details ‘unacceptable’ impacts. Nature 467:1021PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Holzman DC (2011) Mountaintop removal mining: digging into community health concerns. Environ Health Perspect 119:A476–A483PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. IPCC (2007) Summary for policymakers. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor MMB, Miller HL Jr (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–18Google Scholar
  9. Lenoir J, Gégout JC, Marquet PA, de Ruffray P, Brisse H (2008) A significant upward shift in plant species optimum elevation during the 20th century. Science 320:1768–1771PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lindberg TT, Bernhardt ES, Bier R, Helton AM, Merola RB, Vengosh A, Di Giulio RT (2011) Cumulative impacts of mountaintop mining on an Appalachian watershed. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:20929–20934PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Milanovich JR, Peterman WE, Nibbelink NP, Maerz JC (2010) Projected loss of a salamander diversity hotspot as a consequence of projected global climate change. PLoS ONE 5:e12189. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012189 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Moritz C, Patton JL, Conroy CJ, Parra JL, White GC, Beissinger SR (2008) Impact of a century of climate change on small-mammal communities in Yosemite National Park, USA. Science 322:261–264PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Parmesan C, Duarte C, Poloczanska E, Richardson AJ, Singer MC (2011) Overstretching attribution. Nat Clim Change 1:2–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Petherick A (2012) Dirty money. Nat Clim Change 2:72–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pond GJ, Passmore ME, Borsuk FA, Reynolds L, Rose CJ (2008) Downstream effects of mountaintop coal mining: comparing biological conditions using family- and genus-level macroinvertebrate bioassessment tools. J N Am Benthol Soc 27:717–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. United States Environmental Protection Agency (2011) The effects of mountaintop mines and valley fills on aquatic ecosystems of the central Appalachian coalfields. EPA/600/R-09/138F. Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Wickham JD, Riitters KH, Wade TG, Coan M, Homer C (2007) The effect of Appalachian mountaintop mining on interior forest. Landsc Ecol 22:179–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wood PB, Bosworth SB, Dettmers R (2006) Cerulean Warbler abundance and occurrence relative to large-scale edge and habitat characteristics. Condor 108:154–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Zullig KJ, Hendryx M (2011) Health-related quality of life among central Appalachian residents in mountaintop mining counties. Am J Public Health 101:848–853PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment and Geography, Faculty of ScienceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations