Impact of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) on diatom populations in a Pennsylvania stream

  • Authors: Merrilee Anderson 1, Chris Arena 2, J. Michael Engle 3, John Galebach 4
    Affiliations: 1: Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, PA; 2: Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, PA; 3: Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, PA; 4: Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, PA
  • Citation: Merrilee Anderson, Chris Arena, J. Michael Engle, John Galebach. 2013. Impact of acid mine drainage (amd) on diatom populations in a pennsylvania stream.
  • Publication Date : December 2013
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Life in a healthy stream can be severely impacted by changes in pH (1).  Our collection reveals the differences in diatom diversity from the effects of AMD on a healthy stream.  Samples were collected from four areas near one AMD discharge (2).  The first site is from a healthy stream, 40 m upstream of the AMD discharge with a pH of 6.9.  The second site is at the Hughes Borehole, 5 m below the source of AMD discharge with a pH of 3.4.  The third site is a naturally formed settling pond, 50 m below the discharge, where the flow of polluted water slows and has a pH of 2.7.  The fourth site is 600 m below the AMD discharge where the healthy and low pH waters mix with a pH of 5.3.  Here we depict and identify diatoms from each of the four areas.


Diatoms were collected by harvesting biofilms from rocks and sediments found at each area.  Nitric acid was used to remove organic matter, leaving only the diatom silica shells.  Each sample was diluted and permanently mounted using Naphrax mounting medium (3).  Identification was confirmed using Diatoms of the United States website (4).


1. Trinh C. DeSa, Juliana F. Brown, William D. Burgos, Laboratory and Field-scale Evaluation of Low-pH Fe(II) Oxidation at Hughes Borehole, Portage, Pennsylvania. Mine water and the Enviroment. 19, 239-247 (December 2010).

2. Trimble Company. 2013. My topo. Beartooth Mapping Inc. Billings, Montana. http://mytopo.com/index.cfm. Accessed 27 June 2013.

3. G. V. Sgro, J. R. Johansen, Rapid bioassessment of algal periphyton in freshwater streams. Environmental Science Research. 50, 291-312 (1995).

4. January 2013.The Diatoms of the United States. Diatom identification guide and ecological resource. Boulder, CO. http://westerndiatoms.colorado.edu/about /contact_us.  Accessed 26 June 2013.

5. Bond, Philip L, Steven P. Smirga, and Jillian Banfield.  Phylogeny of Microorganism Populating a Thick Subaerial Predominantly Lithotrophic Biofilm at An Extreme Acid Mine Drainage Site.  Applied and Env. Micro. (2000) 3842-3845.

6. Verb, Robert G., & Vis, Morgan L. (2000). Comparison of benthic diatom assemblages from streams draining abandoned and reclaimed coal mines and nonimpacted sites. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 19(2), 274-288.

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