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This Special Issue of the Southeastern Naturalist is devoted to an unusual place. Like other places on Earth, the form of Canaan Valley (herein called “the Valley”), located in Tucker County in northeastern WV, reflects past interactions among its rocks, topography, climate, and water. In the Valley's case, these elements have shaped the development of an unusual complex of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, many of which support rare species of plants and animals. The rich natural resources have also attracted people to the Valley, so there is an extensive history of resource use and abuse, protection and restoration, and scientific research. Over the last several decades, research projects to catalog and study many aspects of the abiotic environment and living residents have been carried out here. In this Introduction, we sketch how this book came to be and hint at how its papers provide a comprehensive, detailed description of this special place.
Canaan Valley (hereafter, the Valley) is located in the Folded Plateau Physiographic Province of the Appalachian Mountains. The Province features broad, gentle folds and low, structural dips. The Valley lies over the Blackwater Anticline, one of three structures that characterize the high plateau in which the Valley is set. The Anticline plunges northward, creating a broad amphitheater at the Valley's northern end. Southward, the Anticline truncates against a zone of discordance. The cause of the discordance is unknown. South of this zone, the Plateau is more deeply dissected, and the Anticline cannot be traced. In its place, there are three structures that terminate northward against the zone. Local stratigraphy controls the Valley's landscape. Six stratigraphic units—the Pennsylvanian Kanawha Formation, New River Formation, Mississippian Mauch Chunk Formation, Greenbrier Limestone Formation, Price Formation, and Devonian Hampshire Formation—outcrop in the Valley. The ridges in the Valley are supported by the coarse-grained to conglomeratic sandstones of the Kanawha Formation. Conglomerates of the Rockwell Member of the Price Formation underlie the low ridge in the Valley's center. Red mudstones of the Mauch Chunk form the Valley's walls, and the Greenbrier Limestone underlies the floor of the Valley. Two major unconformities are present in the Valley's stratigraphic section. First, the contact between the Price and the Greenbrier is a major Mississippian unconformity. Second, the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian boundary, represented by the Mauch Chunk-New River contact, is a large regional unconformity represented in southern West Virginia by the Pocahontas and Lower New River formations. On the latest geological map of the Valley, the New River and Kanawha formations are lumped into a single mapping unit because the contact between them is difficult to differentiate due to lack of exposure. Coal and natural gas have been extracted in the Valley area. Coal has been mined from the Upper Freeport coal of the Allegheny Formation and the Bakerstown coal of the Glenshaw Formation (Conemaugh Group). Surface mines associated with these coals form a horseshoe pattern that follows the outcrops of the coals, stretching from the Pendleton Creek area west of Davis to the area south of the Mount Storm Power Plant. Natural gas is produced from the Oriskany Sandstone along the crest of the Blackwater Anticline in the Valley and from the Jordan Run Gas Field just east of the Allegheny Front.
In this paper, we present and examine climate data from 1944 to 2002 for Canaan Valley, WV, including average, extreme, and monthly and seasonal temperature, and precipitation and snowfall amounts. The data, collected over decades by several dedicated National Weather Service cooperative observers, indicate that Canaan Valley's “cash crop” may indeed be its climate. The Canaan Valley has summer temperatures similar to those found in northern New England, an average seasonal snowfall higher than any large city in the US, and a shorter growing season than that of Fairbanks, AK. We highlight the area's exceptional climate and compare it to other well known locations. We also present and assess climate trends, including some relationships to the El Niño Southern Oscillation state, in Canaan Valley's 57-year record.
The genesis of all soils is a function of the interactions of climate, organisms, relief, parent material, and time, which are often called the five factors of soil formation. Because temperatures are cooler and precipitation is greater in Canaan Valley (hereafter, the Valley) than in most other parts of West Virginia, the Valley's soils tend to be wetter during most of the year than the soils on similar landscape positions in other parts of the state. Although the Valley's various soils differ in age, have developed on different parent materials, and are found in diverse landscape positions, most are acidic and/or wet. The Valley's soils vary from organic soils in depressions to sandy soils on the surrounding ridges. In the Valley, the common bedrock under the organic soils is Greenbrier Limestone. Mineral soils also formed on the Valley's floodplains and terraces. Many of these soils, especially those on the wet terraces, have slowly permeable, clayey subsoils that formed in alluvium or slack-water deposits. It is consistent that these soils are somewhat poorly, poorly, or very poorly drained. In some areas, residuum or colluvium occur below the water-deposited material; in other areas the soils formed completely within residuum or colluvium. The residual materials weathered in place from limestone, shale, and/or sandstone. The colluvium weathered from the same parent materials, but has moved downslope. The soils on the sideslopes surrounding the Valley formed in shales and sandstone and are normally dryer than the soils of the Valley's floor. However, some of these low-lying soils are moderately well to somewhat poorly drained. Soils on the ridgetops formed in Pottsville Sandstone. Unique soil horizons developed where Picea rubens (Red Spruce) and Tsuga canadensis (Eastern Hemlock) occur. These spodosols are acidic, sandy, and have very low water-holding capacities.
A proposed section of Appalachian Corridor H, an interstate highway that begins at I-79 near Weston, WV, and will continue east to I-81 at Strasburg, VA, will pass through an area of the Beaver Creek watershed that was previously mined for the acid-producing Upper Freeport coal. Beaver Creek flows into the Blackwater River after flowing out of Canaan Valley. Partially reclaimed spoils from past mining activities are generating acid mine drainage. Wetlands adjacent to the spoils support plant communities that appear to be naturally treating the drainage. To better understand the chemical and physical functions within the wetlands and to assist the West Virginia Division of Highways in constructing wetlands for mitigating environmental damage, we described the soils of the mine-drainage-impacted wetlands (Narrow Wetland, Iron Pond, and Railroad Grade) and took samples for subsequent laboratory analyses. For comparison, we also described and sampled unimpacted soils in Elder Swamp, which is an adjacent wetland that receives no mine drainage. The impacted wetland soils had thinner organic and mineral horizons and were lower in C and N than unimpacted soils. The electrical conductivity was low for all wetland soils, and pH ranged from 3.2–6.1, with both low and high pH values in impacted and unimpacted soils. These results were reflected in the overall lower quality of vegetation that we noticed in the impacted wetlands.
A new highway, called Appalachian Corridor H, will pass through the Beaver Creek watershed in Tucker County, WV. Some of this area has been affected by surface mining of Upper Freeport Coal. The resulting mined lands are currently producing acid mine drainage and have the potential to produce more if disturbed. To document soil development and the effect that disturbance of these mined lands might have on water quality, we evaluated the properties of the soils that will potentially be affected by highway construction. Six sampling sites were located on mine soils and on adjacent undisturbed soils. After describing soil profiles, we sampled each horizon for laboratory analyses. We analyzed the soil samples for pH, electrical conductivity , carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and acid-base account. Other soil properties like texture, water holding capacity, acidity, cation exchange capacity, and elemental concentrations (Al, Ca, Mg, Na, K, Fe) were determined but not reported herein. Most of the mine soils had weakly developed B horizons and were classified as either entisols or inceptisols. The pH values ranged from 3.2–4.8. Electrical conductivity and total nitrogen were low. Total sulfur was generally low, ranging from 0.1% to 0.17%. However, one mine soil had sulfur values >1% in the lowest horizon. We sampled two overburden rock cores and analyzed them for acid-base account characteristics. These data support the mine soil data, which indicate that acid materials occur in this region and may produce additional acid if unweathered rocks and mine soils are exposed to the atmosphere during road construction. Recommendations for reclamation of the disturbed materials will be developed.
Headwater streams are important habitats for aquatic organisms. Within forested regions, headwater streams and riparian corridors function as zones of deposition, storage, processing, and subsequent transport of organic matter. In forested streams, organic matter from the adjacent forest provides the major fuel for the aquatic ecosystem. Along with habitat, headwater streams perform many valuable ecosystem services such as nutrient, hydraulic, and sediment retention; provide thermal refuges; and function as important sites of secondary production for higher animals. Headwater streams are being subjected to many anthropogenic impacts including dams, urbanization, agriculture, forestry, and mining. Ecologists should promote the importance of headwater streams, as well as devote more research to examining entire stream networks, rather than just studying individual longitudinal linkages.
Canaan Valley (hereafter, the Valley), a unique wetland complex set in the Allegheny Highlands of northeastern West Virginia, has been the subject of several investigations by the US Geological Survey (USGS). These projects include studying the surface-water hydrology and processes affecting dissolved oxygen, groundwater hydrology, wetland biogeochemistry, and the formation of peat. Additionally, recent revisions of the region's geologic maps have enhanced our understanding of the Valley's surface rocks. The Valley's streams typically conduct dilute calcium- and magnesium-bicarbonate type waters that are low in alkalinity, nutrients, and dissolved solids. The Blackwater River and its major tributaries, the Little Blackwater River and the North Branch of the Blackwater River, are low-gradient streams. Other tributaries are high-gradient streams that originate on the Valley's sides and fall rapidly to the Valley floor before joining the Blackwater River and the major tributaries. Generally, low-gradient streams are less turbulent than high-gradient streams and dissolved oxygen concentrations are strongly affected by turbulence, re-aeration, benthic photosynthesis, and high biochemical oxygen demand in the numerous beaver ponds through which streams flow and which are present in the Valley. Groundwater in the Valley flows primarily along joints, faults, and bedding planes, and its quality is affected primarily by the mineral composition of the source rock. Septic discharges and, to a lesser extent, land applications of fertilizers and pesticides have affected groundwater locally. The most prevalent contaminants of concern in groundwater are bacteria, radon, and manganese. Nearly half of the wells sampled contained detectable concentrations of fecal streptococcus bacteria, and 25% had detectable concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria. Radon, a carcinogenic gas, was detected in 8 of 12 samples at concentrations exceeding proposed drinking water standards. During periods of stream base-flow, groundwater discharge dominates the flow and influences the chemical characteristics of the Valley's streams. Substrate chemistry, communities of denitrifying bacteria, and plant-community structure were compared among four different wetland types in the Valley. Further wetland studies have estimated the peat resources available in the northern end of the Valley. In this paper, we summarize hydrologic and geologic investigations conducted by the US Geological Survey and others in the Valley over the last 8 decades.
An understanding of historic and current water quality is needed to manage and improve aquatic communities within the Blackwater River watershed, WV. The Blackwater River, which historically offered an excellent Salvelinus fontinalis (Brook Trout) fishery, has been affected by logging, coal mining, use of off-road vehicles, and land development. Using information-theoretic methods, we examined trends in water quality at 12 sites in the watershed for the 14 years of 1980–1993. Except for Beaver Creek, downward trends in acidity and upward trends in alkalinity, conductivity, and hardness were consistent with decreases in hydrogen ion concentration. Water-quality trends for Beaver Creek were inconsistent with the other sites and reflect ongoing coal-mining influences. Dissolved oxygen trended downward, possibly due to natural conditions, but remained above thresholds that would be detrimental to aquatic life. Water quality changed only slightly within the watershed from 1980–1993, possibly reflecting few changes in development and land uses during this time. These data serve as a baseline for future water-quality studies and may help to inform management planning.
Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Blackwater River just north of Canaan Valley in northeastern West Virginia, runs parallel to the proposed alignment of a major four-lane highway called Appalachian Corridor H. Beaver Creek and many of its major tributaries are characterized by low pH, little alkalinity, and high levels of dissolved metals due to the geochemical characteristics of the soil's parent material and continuing impacts from past coal mining. During the planning phase of this road project, we identified two major environmental concerns: (1) our ability to predict and manage water-quality impairments that will likely result from the cuts and fills of new material, and (2) the legacy effects of mine refuse from historic coal mines. In the latter case, although many refuse sites are located outside the proposed highway's alignment, drainage from these sites will be intercepted by the highway's water-control structures. We (West Virginia University [WVU]) have collaborated with the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) to minimize construction-related impacts to Beaver Creek's water quality. More specifically, we have evaluated strategies by which water collection and conveyance structures can be integrated with passive water-remediation processes during the highway's design and construction. In March 2000, we began monitoring water quality in the Beaver Creek drainage. We measured physical, chemical, and biological indicators of water quality and present these data here to serve as a baseline for future comparisons. In general, the water in Beaver Creek was acidic with an average pH of 5.1 in its headwaters and 6.1 above its confluence with the Blackwater River. The water also carried little or no alkalinity. The untreated water seeping from mine-waste piles was highly acidic, with an average pH of 3.0, carried high levels of dissolved sulfate and iron, and featured excess acid-production capacity. After we identified the main sources of water-quality impairment—the locations of mine-waste piles and acidic seeps—we formulated preliminary recommendations for minimizing the impacts of highway construction on the Creek's water quality. For example, we recommended the implementation of acid-base accounting on the overburden that would be disturbed during construction. We also suggested special material-handling procedures. Based on our preliminary water-quality data, we recommended a series of passive treatment processes that could be incorporated into the road's design, construction, and operation. Future treatment decisions will be informed by our growing dataset. Further, because many sources of water-quality impairment are located within the basin but beyond the road's proposed alignment, efforts must be made to engage diverse stakeholders to leverage support for protecting and restoring the Beaver Creek watershed.
Canaan Valley (hereafter, the Valley) is a 34,600-ac (14,000-ha), high-elevation valley in the Central Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Its diverse wetland and upland habitats support a wide variety of plant communities, many of which are extremely rare. The prominence of rare communities is associated with the diversity of topographic settings, soils, geology, and hydrology, as well as the effects of human settlement and resource exploitation. Most of the rare plant communities are found in the wetlands of the Valley's floor. Virtually all of the communities associated with the Valley's extensive cold peatlands are rare, including (1) mixed conifer swamp-forests of Picea rubens (Red Spruce), Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir), and Tsuga canadensis (Eastern Hemlock), (2) mixed conifer-Fraxinus nigra (Black Ash) bog-forests in limestone-influenced wetlands in the central and southern parts of the Valley, and (3) extensive Sphagnum and Polytrichum bogs in the central and northern parts of Canaan Valley. Shrub communities such as Alnus incana ssp. rugosa (Speckled Alder), Viburnum recognitum (Smooth Arrowwood), and Salix discolor (Glaucous Willow) growing on mineral soils along waterways are also rare. Populus tremuloides (Trembling Aspen) groves, although abundant in the Valley, are extremely limited in the Appalachian region. Lastly, the grassand forb-dominated grass-bald communities on the surrounding mountain rims show an extremely limited distribution throughout the Central Appalachians.
Abes Run wetland is a biologically diverse, 82-ac (33-ha) complex of wet meadow, marsh, scrub-shrub, and forested-swamp communities in Canaan Valley, WV. In 2002, we sampled the vegetation in six 65-ft (20-m)-wide transects and identified a total of 179 vascular plant species. We classified 23 species as introduced; 38 occurred at or near the southernmost known limit of their range. Two graminoid-dominated (e.g., Carex spp. [sedges], Leersia spp. [cutgrass], and Scirpus spp. [bulrush]) and forb-dominated (Euthamia spp. [goldenrods]) transects occurred in an area that had been forested and later inundated by Castor canadensis (North American Beaver) in the 1970s. Four transects were mixed-deciduous and coniferous forested-swamp communities. With the exception of transect 5, these sites had an organic horizon that was 32–40-in (80–100-cm) deep in the center, and the water table tended to persist at the wetland surface through the first half of the growing season. The tree stratum was well-developed, although discontinuous, and was dominated by mixtures of Fraxinus nigra (Black Ash), Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir), Picea rubens (Red Spruce), and Betula alleghaniensis (Yellow Birch). A rich shrub layer of Rhamnus alnifolia (Alder-leaved Buckthorn), Ilex verticillata (Winterberry), and Alnus incana ssp. rugosa (Speckled Alder) was also present. The broken overstory created a variable light regime on the wetland floor and as a consequence, there was high diversity of herbaceous plants. Although a rank comparison of 1945 vs. 1997 vegetative-cover classes did not yield any significant differences, we noted 3 trends: 1) North American Beaver activities reduced the area of coniferous swamp forests, 2) wet-graminoid areas increased as beaver dams were abandoned and their impoundments dried, and 3) the extent of scrub-shrub communities increased, particularly in the upper portions of the wetland's drainage.
Canaan Valley (hereafter, the Valley), in northeastern West Virginia, supports large areas of wetland, upland forest, and upland non-forest habitats at relatively high elevations, providing potential habitat for a variety of rare plant species. The presence of 54 species of plants considered to be rare and of conservation concern in West Virginia plus 22 watchlist species has been confirmed in the Valley. No federally listed threatened or endangered plants have been found. One of the rare species is the globally critically imperiled Platanthera shriveri (Shriver's Frilly Orchid) and 4 are globally vulnerable—Gymnocarpium appalachianum (Appalachian Oak Fern), Hypericum mitchellianum (Blue Ridge St. Johnswort), Euphorbia purpurea (Glade Spurge), and Polemonium vanbruntiae (Bog Jacob's-ladder). Rare plants are found throughout the Valley; 80% occur in wetlands, and a significant assemblage is associated with wetlands on Greenbrier Limestone. Globally rare species are Appalachian endemics, but 41 of the Valley's rare and watchlist plants are primarily northern in distribution. Extant native populations are known in West Virginia only from the Valley for 3 species—Carex atherodes (Awned Sedge), Gentianopsis crinita (Greater Fringed Gentian), and Viburnum trilobum (American Cranberry-bush)—and a significant portion of all known West Virginia occurrences for at least another 16 species are in the Valley. Several rare plant species grow in multiple places in the Valley, but others are known from only 1 or 2 sites and are quite vulnerable. Non-native insect pests threaten Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir) and Fraxinus nigra (Black Ash). There are a number of threats to the Valley's rare plants: invasive plants, especially Typha latifolia (Broadleaf Cattail), Iris pseudoacorus (Yellow Flag), Phalaris arundinacea (Reed Canarygrass), and Microstegium vimineum (Japanese Stiltgrass); browsing by Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer); residential development; hydrologic changes to wetlands; and climate change.
Much of Canaan Valley was converted to agricultural uses following logging in the early 1900s. More recently, some land has undergone succession from grassland to scrub-shrub habitat. We evaluated vegetation and habitat structure in mowed and unmowed hayfields and idle pastures during 1999 and 2000. We observed 71 plant species on 3 hayfields and 3 pastures. Solidago ulginosa (Bog Goldenrod), Solidago rugosa (Wrinkle-leaved Goldenrod), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), Dactylis glomerata (Orchard Grass), Phalaris arundinacea (Reed Canary Grass), and Hypericum densiflorum (Glade St. John's Wort) were the most common taxa. Species composition and abundance varied by field type and mowing treatment. Vegetation was taller in pastures than in hayfields; standing dead vegetation was greater in unmowed plots than in mowed plots. Mowing is useful for maintaining vegetative structure for wildlife and may influence plant species composition and abundance.
Abundant data are available on the ages of perennial seed plants, but we know little about the longevity of ferns. In this study we estimated the ages of 30 colonies of Osmunda claytoniana (Interrupted Fern). Common in the Monongahela National Forest of northeastern West Virginia, Interrupted Ferns typically form convexly bulging, elliptically shaped colonies. We studied colonies larger than 6.6 ft (2 m) in average diameter. Each colony was comprised of dozens of ramets interconnected by a subsurface, dichotomously branching rhizome system. The fronds' stipe bases persist through the colony's life, endure along the entire length of the rhizome, and extend back to the origin of the colony's founding ramet. We estimated the age of a fern colony by dividing the average radius of the colony by the growth rate of its rhizomes. We estimated rhizome growth rate by dividing the average number of stipe bases per length of rhizome by the average number of fronds generated by an individual ramet per year. Rhizome growth rates varied from 0.04 to 0.24 in (0.1–0.6 cm) per year, which represents a slow outward expansion by colonies. Our observational data and derived estimates indicated that these colonies were as old as 414 years. If our estimates are accurate, the Interrupted Fern may be one of the longest-lived organisms in the Appalachian Mountains.
The rare plants and unusual wetland communities of Canaan Valley are potentially threatened by establishment of exotic and invasive plants. We consulted various references and assembled a list of 106 invasive and/or exotic plant species that have been found growing in Canaan Valley; the most speciose families are Poaceae (grasses), Fabaceae (legumes), and Asteraceae (sunflowers). We recommend that diverse local stakeholders cooperate to plan and implement a program to prevent the establishment of highly invasive plants in Canaan Valley.
Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir) was historically abundant in parts of West Virginia, but it was drastically reduced by extensive logging around the turn of the 19th–20th centuries. More recently, intense herbivory by Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) and an infestation of Adelges piceae (Balsam Woolly Adelgid), among other possible factors, have caused Balsam Fir to decline in the region. Understanding the impacts of White-tailed Deer and Balsam Woolly Adelgid is important for restoring Balsam Fir in Canaan Valley. On the Freeland Tract of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, we surveyed the intensity of browsing on Balsam Fir and estimated deer population levels, while Refuge personnel assessed the intensity of the adelgid infestation. Even though estimates of deer density were significantly greater during 1999–2000 than in 2001–2002, the percent of buds browsed was similar during the two periods. During 2001–2002, browsing was more intense on Balsam Fir trees that were outside than on trees inside an exclosure. Deer had minimal to moderate impact on mature trees, but in many cases, they completely browsed all of the buds on trees <3.3 ft (1 m) tall. The proportion of trees infested by Balsam Woolly Adelgid rose by 17.4%—from 51.3% in 2000 to 68.7% in 2002. The average diameter at breast height of Balsam Firs heavily infested by adelgids was significantly larger than of those trees classified as moderate, light, or not infested. The Balsam Woolly Adelgid is of greater conservation concern than White-tailed Deer because some of the trees tallied in the first phase of our survey were already dead. Restoration efforts that involve the planting of seedlings should consider the impacts of deer on seedlings and the impacts of adelgids on mature trees.
Canaan Valley, an unusual, high-elevation bowl in the Mid-Atlantic region, is a headwater basin of the upper Blackwater River. Because of its unique geological and topographical setting, many plant and animal species, as well as several plant communities that are considered to be rare in West Virginia, are found in the Blackwater River watershed. In this paper, I describe the distribution of 72 rare species in general terms and discuss selected plant and animal species in greater detail. I also characterize potential threats and offer recommendations regarding the inventorying and monitoring of these rare taxa and natural communities.
Few data exist on invertebrate populations in farmland habitats of the Appalachian Mountains. However, invertebrate biomass and taxonomic composition may influence the potential for birds to reproduce. We collected invertebrates using sweepnets on 3 idle pastures and 3 idle hayfields in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV. To evaluate the effects of mowing on invertebrate biomass, half of each field was mowed in August 1999 after grassland birds had finished nesting. In 2000, we collected terrestrial invertebrates on the mowed and non-mowed portions of each field. We documented 25 invertebrate families from 12 orders. Taxa in the orders Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), Homoptera (leafhoppers), and Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) were the most abundant. Invertebrate biomass (g/150 passes of a sweep net) was similar (P = 0.763) between mowed (mean = 0.4302, SE = 0.0509) and unmowed (mean = 0.4704, SE = 0.0716) treatments. Biomass was similar between hayfields and pastures for each month (P > 0.05). We conclude that mowing did not influence the composition or biomass of our collections, which were comprised of invertebrate taxa from orders commonly consumed by breeding grassland birds.
Many West Virginia watersheds have been affected by mining activities. Runoff water, known as acid mine drainage (AMD), is acidic and tends to have a high metal content. Over the last several decades, various strategies have been employed to remediate the conditions caused by AMD and restore water quality to levels that support diverse native organisms. Located in the Canaan Valley, Tucker County, WV, the Blackwater River and its tributaries have been the focus of restoration efforts. Limestone application has proved to be among the most successful treatments to raise pH and ameliorate the effects of AMD. Our objectives were to use the introduced freshwater mussel Strophitus undulatus (Creeper) in bioassays to determine the effects of AMD and AMD neutralization on the health and survival of individuals and the potential dispersal of the species. In addition, we sought to determine the effects on mussels of limestone sediments that accumulate as a result of water treatments.
This paper examines the changes in the Blackwater River's fishery from presettlement wilderness conditions to the present, and concludes with comments regarding the future of this resource. I estimate the extent of the native Salvelinus fontinalis (Brook Trout) fishery present prior to European settlement based on writings of the era and results of trout-stream restoration in West Virginia. I also describe the effects of logging, fire, and coal mining on the river's water quality and the subsequent demise of the Brook Trout fishery. I examine the partial recovery of the watershed and its fishery using records of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) and its predecessors that provided data regarding Blackwater River fish stockings, creel censuses, and fish surveys, and from conversations with local anglers. I also report on efforts to restore the lower Blackwater River in the mid-1990s when a limestone treatment facility was installed just upstream from Davis, WV to neutralize the acid-mine drainage entering the river. The effort improved water quality enough so that a fishery developed in the Blackwater Canyon. I describe the efficacy of an in-stream limestone-sand treatment to remediate the effects of acid deposition and facilitate recovery of the local native Brook Trout streams. Finally, I discuss the future of the Blackwater River and its fishery as related to climate warming, acid deposition, land development, water pollution, and water u sage.
The Blackwater River, a tributary of the upper Cheat River of the Monongahela River, hosts a modest fish fauna. This relatively low diversity of fish species is partly explained by its drainage history. The Blackwater was once part of the prehistoric, northeasterly flowing St. Lawrence River. During the Pleistocene Epoch, the fauna was significantly affected by glacial advance and by proglacial lakes and their associated overflows. After the last glacial retreat, overflow channels, deposits, and scouring altered drainage courses and connected some of the tributaries of the ancient Teays and Pittsburgh drainages. These major alterations allowed the invasion of fishes from North America's more species-rich southern waters. Here we review fish distributions based on 67 surveys at 34 sites within the Blackwater River drainage, and discuss the origin and status of 37 species. Within the Blackwater River watershed, 30 species (20 native, 10 introduced) have been reported from upstream of Blackwater Falls, whereas 29 (26 native, 3 introduced) have been documented below the Falls. Acid mine drainage, historic lumbering, and human encroachment have impacted the Blackwater's ichthyofauna. The fishes that have been most affected are Salvelinus fontinalis (Brook Trout), Clinostomus elongatus (Redside Dace), Nocomis micropogon (River Chub), Hypentelium nigricans (Northern Hog Sucker), Etheostoma flabellare (Fantail Darter), and Percina maculata (Blackside Darter). The first two species incurred range reductions, whereas the latter four were probably extirpated. In the 1990s, acid remediation dramatically improved the water quality of the river below Davis. Recent surveys in the lower drainage revealed 15 fishes where none had been observed since at least the 1940s; seven of these (Cyprinella spiloptera [Spotfin Shiner], Luxilus chrysocephalus [Striped Shiner], Notropis photogenis [Silver Shiner], N. rubellus [Rosyface Shiner]; Micropterus dolomieu [Smallmouth Bass]; and Etheostoma camurum [Bluebreast Darter] and E. variatum [Variegate Darter]) represent additions to the faunal list of the Blackwater River.
I have been studying amphibians in Canaan Valley and its surrounding region since 1976. Most of my studies inventoried populations of Plethodon nettingi (Cheat Mountain Salamander). I sampled 29 upland sites on the mountains around Canaan Valley: (1) twelve sites on Canaan Mountain, which forms Canaan Valley's western rim, were distributed from Chimney Rock, at the southern end of Canaan Mountain, northwards to the Blackwater River at Camp 70; (2) on the eastern rim of Canaan Valley, 17 sites were on Cabin Mountain, from Snowy Point in the north to Weiss Knob in the south. At the montane sites, I observed 11 salamander species and 1 toad species. Salamanders found included Ambystoma maculatum (Spotted Salamander), Notophthalmus v. viridescens (Red-spotted Newt), Desmognathus monticola (Seal Salamander), Desmognathus ochrophaeus (Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander); Gyrinophilus p. porphyriticus (Northern Spring Salamander), Hemidactylium scutatum (Four-toed Salamander), Eurycea bislineata (Northern Two-lined Salamander), Plethodon cinereus (Eastern Red-backed Salamander), Cheat Mountain Salamander; P. glutinosus (Northern Slimy Salamander), and P. wehrlei (Wehrle's Salamander). The only toad observed was Anaxyrus americanus (Eastern American Toad). I have monitored one population of the Cheat Mountain Salamander at the headwaters of Yoakum Run on Cabin Mountain since 1986, making this the longest continuously running study of a salamander in West Virginia. I also studied 10 sites in Canaan Valley, where I found 1 toad, 7 frog, and 8 salamander species. Anurans observed included the Eastern American Toad, Pseudacris brachyphona (Mountain Chorus Frog), P. crucifer (Spring Peeper), Hyla chrysoscelis (Cope's Gray Treefrog), Lithobates catesbeianus (American Bullfrog); L. clamitans melanota (Northern Green Frog), L. palustris (Pickerel Frog), and L. sylvaticus (Wood Frog). Urodeles found included the Spotted Salamander, Red-spotted Newt, Desmognathus fuscus (Northern Dusky Salamander), Seal Salamander, Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Northern Spring Salamander, Four-toed Salamander, and Northern Two-lined Salamander. Amphibians that may occur in Canaan Valley, but which I have not recorded, include Ambystoma jeffersonianum (Jefferson Salamander); Eurycea l. longicauda (Longtailed Salamander); and Pseudotriton r. ruber (Northern Red Salamander).
High elevation; harsh winter weather; variable topography, seasons, and habitats; and shifting ranges provide for a diverse bird community in Canaan Valley and Tucker County, WV. A total of 195 species has been recorded during censuses—50 permanent residents and 145 summer residents, migrants, and accidentals—and 86 species are confirmed as breeding in the county. Bird habitats include coniferous, hardwood, and mixed hardwood-conifer forests; old field and forest-field margins; and alder swamps, spirea thickets, and wet meadows. Harsh winter conditions limit the number of overwintering birds. All of these factors affect the occurrence and distribution of Canaan Valley's birds.
Canaan Valley contains important habitat for Scolopax minor (American Woodcock) in the mid-Atlantic states, especially in West Virginia. Throughout the eastern United States, however, this species has experienced significant population declines since the US Fish and Wildlife Service began monitoring its populations in 1968. Losses of early successional habitats through urbanization and forest-stand maturation have been identified as probable causes for the decrease in population. During 1995–1997, we sampled American Woodcock presence and measured microhabitat and landscape characteristics in a variety of early successional habitats on plots located in and around Canaan Valley. Habitat characteristics related to soil moisture differentiated sites in and outside of Canaan Valley. Sites used by American Woodcock in Canaan Valley generally occurred in or near shrubby wetlands. To identify long-term changes in quality and quantity of American Woodcock habitat, we also compared current availability of appropriate habitat to similar data collected by researchers in the 1970s. We found that almost all of the sites in Canaan Valley that were originally classified as exceptional were still good American Woodcock habitat. Land development and succession, however, have reduced the quality of habitat. Active management and protection are needed, particularly because Canaan Valley is the only place in West Virginia that consistently offers exceptional American Woodcock habitat.
Grassland songbirds have been declining due to loss of habitat. In Canaan Valley, WV, grassland habitats primarily consist of active and idle pastures and hayfields. Our objectives were to document the species of breeding birds that occurred on grasslands of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and evaluate temporal patterns of abundance among months and years. This study took place on 3 idle hayfields and 3 idle pastures in the Refuge during the summers of 1999 and 2000. At the conclusion of the first field season, half of each field was mowed. A total of 28 species—13 in 1999 and 27 in 2000—was documented. Dolichonyx oryzivorus (Bobolink), Sturnella magna (Eastern Meadowlark), Passerculus sandwichensis (Savannah Sparrow), and Agelaius phoeniceus (Red-winged Blackbird) were dominant. Additional species observed included Ammodramus savannarum (Grasshopper Sparrow) and Circus cyaneus (Northern Harrier). Species diversity, species richness, and total bird abundance varied among months (P < 0.05). Densities were higher in July than in May, June, and August; however, total number of birds peaked later in 1999 than in 2000. Species richness and diversity were lower in August than other months. Temporal variations in grassland bird diversity, richness, and abundance were likely influenced by precipitation patterns and land-use practices on and adjacent to the Refuge.
A decline in the amount of North America's early-successional habitats has triggered a concern for birds that nest in these environments. In West Virginia and throughout the Northeast, sharp drops have been detected in the populations of early-successional birds. We monitored the nest success of birds in Crataegus (hawthorn)-dominated areas of grasslands in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge (herein called The Refuge) during the summers of 1999 and 2000. We found 30 nests of six species, including Bombycilla cedrorum (Cedar Waxwing), Turdus migratorius (American Robin), Pooecetes gramineus (Vesper Sparrow), Tyrannus tyrannus (Eastern Kingbird), Spizella passerina (Chipping Sparrow), and Geothlypis trichas (Common Yellowthroat). Hawthorn trees were the dominant plants used for nest placement. Overall, a similar number of nests fledged young (n = 17, 56.7%) as failed (n = 13, 43.3%) (P = 0.31). We attributed most nest failures to avian or mammalian predation, which may reflect an edge effect. The clutch size of the Cedar Waxwing was greater than for other species (P = 0.03). We recommend that The Refuge's managers focus on reducing edge features, studying predator-edge relations, and monitoring avian use of early-successional habitats.
From 1979 through 1993, we surveyed the waterfowl of Canaan Valley by using vantage-point, helicopter, and canoe surveys. We conducted monthly vantage-point surveys from April through November at four sites, we completed monthly canoe surveys during May–July along a 10-mi (16-km) segment of the Blackwater River, and we conducted helicopter surveys covering all of the Valley's drainages in May, August, and November. The most abundant species of waterfowl were the Branta canadensis (Canada Goose), Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard), Aix sponsa (Wood Duck), and Anas rubripes (American Black Duck). Thirteen other duck species were sighted, most of which were recorded during the November helicopter surveys. Of the several species of wading birds observed, the most abundant were Ardea herodias (Great Blue Heron) and Butorides virescens (Green Heron).
Canaan Valley, a 40-mi2 (104-km2) basin situated about 3200 ft (975 m) above sea level in the mountains of northeastern West Virginia, supports a plant and animal community of largely boreal nature—a relic of the Ice Age. Removal of the original forest and subsequent fires drastically altered Canaan Valley's flora and fauna. This paper summarizes actions by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WV DNR) to research, manage, and restore several wildlife species, most of which are indigenous to Canaan Valley and its environs. Of particular importance was the WV DNR's research of Scolopax minor (American Woodcock), the findings of which have had broad management implications and brought national attention to hunting in Canaan Valley.
In this paper, we present tabulations of annual game-animal harvests in Canaan Valley and Tucker County, WV, from several time periods. We present countywide harvestdata for 1923–2001 for Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), 1969–2001 for Castor canadensis (Beaver), 1976–2001 for Lynx rufus (Bobcat), 1950–2001 for Ursus americanus (Black Bear), 1975–2001 for Martes pennanti (Fisher), and 1940–2001 for Meleagris gallopavo (Wild Turkey). Annual numbers of animals harvested in Canaan Valley have increased steadily during the past 75 years since the establishment of modern regulations. Interpretations of reported harvest data are difficult because of changes in extrinsic factors that affect hunting and trapping pressure and success. The only game animal for which harvest levels are positively correlated with population density is White-tailed Deer. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine by examining the harvest numbers whether populations of game animals have increased, decreased, or remained stable.
To place the prehistoric people of Canaan Valley (hereafter, the Valley), WV, in spatial and temporal contexts, I reviewed general trends in climate, environment, technology, and society through the major periods of prehistory. A network of trails integrated the people of the Valley area within broader regional trends. Based on the widespread patterns, inferences of local environments and natural resources, and findings at local archeological sites—including recently discovered prehistoric artifacts in the Valley—I synthesized a general theory about the ecology of prehistoric people of the Valley area: from settlements in optimal habitats of the Cheat and/or South Branch Potomac River floodplains, people occupied the sub-optimal habitat of the Valley for extended stays (e.g., one or two months) during annual migrations, for brief stopovers (one or two days) while central-place foraging, or both. From this general model, I derived several specific hypotheses, most of which are testable with current archaeological methods. I conclude by comparing the environmental ethics of prehistoric and modern inhabitants of the Valley. This review will help residents and visitors appreciate the Valley's prehistoric forerunners, commercial developers minimize archaeological impacts, and public land managers design interpretive exhibits.
Today's visitors to Canaan Valley know little about its former impenetrability and remoteness. Canaan Valley's colorful parade of historical events began with the arrival of pioneer settlers and was followed by establishment of logging camps and railroads, devastating wildfires, and later, the US Forest Service era of planting and conservation programs. Recently, the Canaan Valley Resort and Blackwater Falls were developed as lodging and recreational facilities to help make Canaan Valley a vacation destination.
The Fernow Experimental Forest (herein called the Fernow) in Tucker County, WV, was set aside in 1934 for “experimental and demonstration purposes under the direction of the Appalachian Forest Experiment Station” of the US Forest Service. Named after a famous German forester, Bernhard Fernow, the Fernow was initially developed with considerable assistance from the Civilian Conservation Corps. Shut down temporarily during World War II, the Fernow was reopened in 1948 as an outdoor laboratory and classroom with the purpose of conducting research that would be useful to the forest landowners and managers throughout the Central Appalachians. Early research focused on the silvicultural management of high-value hardwoods and the effects of various forest management schemes on water quantity and quality. Over time, additional research projects in wildlife, soil science, ecology, air quality, and other environmental topics were included. Today, the Fernow is involved in long-term silvicultural and hydrological research, as well as shorter-term, more topical research projects on the effects of air pollution on wilderness areas, developing management guidelines for threatened and endangered wildlife species, the uses of prescribed fire for managing hardwood stands, and the restoration of the Red Spruce—northern hardwood ecosystem. We include examples of the Fernow's significant findings and conclusions over the years, as well as anecdotes of contributions to West Virginia's quality of life.
In 1933, during the first 90 days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's term, Congress passed the Emergency Conservation Work Act, which established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Parts of Tucker County, WV, are located in the Monongahela National Forest, where the US Forest Service operated 3 CCC camps between 1933 and 1942 in the towns of Parsons, Dry Fork, and Lead Mine. In this paper, I present a history of the CCC in the Canaan Valley region and discuss some of the its achievements.
I place the development of skiing in Canaan Valley in context by sketching the history of skiing around the world, across the US, and in West Virginia. After describing the state's 13 downhill ski areas and the WV Department of Commerce's feasibility study of four potential downhill skiing sites, I describe Canaan Valley's five ski areas. I also describe the people of Canaan Valley's ski industry, including their significant contributions. Several cutting-edge ski programs have been developed in Canaan Valley. Canaan Valley's cross-county ski centers, both past and present, are described along with their impact on the local ski community. I conclude with opinions about the quality of Canaan Valley's skiing experience, the economic benefits of skiing for Tucker County, and the future of skiing in Canaan Valley.
We assessed outdoor recreation and tourism trends for Canaan Valley (hereafter, the Valley) and Tucker County, WV, from historical and contemporary perspectives. Using various primary and secondary sources, including academic research papers, agency reports, newspaper articles, and personal interviews, we developed a socio-demographic profile of Tucker County to gain a context for understanding the issues associated with outdoor recreation and tourism in the region. We then developed a historical model to outline discrete stages of outdoor recreation and tourism development in the Valley. We identified critical issues, such as the lack of coordination and level of conflict, then formulated sustainable development options for the Valley and its environs. Two specific strategies towards sustainable development include (1) the creation of a Canaan Valley Coordinating Council and (2) the County's active participation in regional heritage- and nature-based tourism initiatives. Tourism development should be part of a broad economic diversification strategy, not just a replacement for a traditional boom-and-bust, resource-based economy.
We conclude this Special Issue by summarizing the 36 papers contributed by 60 authors, and by offering a few recommendations about research and management priorities. This is our personal view; this summary paper has not been peer reviewed nor does it represent the opinions of the conference sponsor.