University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

Fall - Winter 2008

THE FOSSIL FUEL REVOLUTION: A GREAT, AND LARGELY UNRECOGNIZED, EXPERIMENT

Mark A. Blumler, Department of Geography
Binghamton University

Abstract

Humanity is living through a great experiment, the Industrial Revolution.  Since it is based on the use of fossil fuels, “Fossil Fuel Revolution” (FFR) might be a better designation.  Because fossil fuels are non-renewable, the FFR cannot long continue without a switch to renewable energy sources, but it is not definitely known that this is possible.  I attempt to clarify our future energy choices, and the areas of scientific uncertainty.  Besides the long-term problem of developing renewable energy supplies for the overall economy, three issues are presenting themselves now: the likely fast-approaching end of cheap oil, with limited substitutes appropriate for vehicles; the possibility that future increases in agricultural yields may be constrained; and the vulnerability to collapse of a globalized, highly interconnected economy.  Some general implications are discussed.


A COMPARATIVE SURVEY AND REVIEW OF AGRICULTURAL USE OF POST-MINING LANDSCAPES IN PENNSYLVANIA AND THE APPALACHIAN REGION

Charles E. Williams, Department of Biology
Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The post-mining landscapes of the Appalachians provide a unique opportunity to develop land-use systems that can sustain local communities and restore vital ecological functions to the region’s lands and waters. This study assessed the status of agriculture and related land-uses on post-mining landscapes in Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region. Natural resource professionals in Pennsylvania and the Appalachian coal producing states were queried about productive post-mining land-uses in their regions. A literature review was conducted to identify other land-uses that may be applied to post-mining landscapes in Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region. Forage and hay production were the top agricultural uses of mine-lands in both Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region. Field crop production was more prevalent on mine-lands in Pennsylvania than in the Appalachian region. Plantation forestry and Christmas tree production were important secondary land-uses in Pennsylvania and the Appalachians. Poor soil conditions were an impediment to agricultural productivity on mine-lands in Pennsylvania and the Appalachians. Agricultural systems with potential for application to post-mining landscapes in Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region include agroforestry, biomass and biofuel production, and carbon sequestration, among others. Development of multifunctional landscapes from mining-degraded lands in the Appalachians is possible, but will require support at many levels.


A SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL ANALYSIS OF CHEMICAL SPILLS IN WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

Thomas R. Mueller , Department of Earth Sciences
California University of Pennsylvania,
Jamie Mitchem, Spatial Analysis Laboratory
Gainesville State College,
Andrew Egut, Emergency Management Officer – Washington County, PA


Abstract

This paper analyzes the spatial and temporal trends of chemical spills along the interstate systems in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  There were 72 reportable spill incidents between 2000 and 2006, resulting in more than 3000 gallons of spilled chemicals, mainly petroleum products.  Spatially, the western portion of I-70 in Washington County towards West Virginia had the highest density of spills while the northern portion of I-79 in the county towards Pittsburgh had the lowest density of spills.  This analysis is useful for emergency managers so they can plan based on past experience and prioritize their use of assets most effectively.   


LAND USE AND IMPERVIOUS SURFACE AREA CHANGE BY COUNTY IN PENNSYLVANIA (1985-2000) AS SEEN ON
SATELLITE IMAGERY

Toby N. Carlson, Department of Meteorology
Pennsylvania State University

Abstract

County averages of impervious surface area, and the urban and woodland fractions were determined for all 67 Pennsylvania counties from archived Landsat image data for the years 1985 and 2000. This paper focuses on changes in these quantities that occurred during the 15-year period, the patterns of development across the state, and the possible reasons for the changes. Changes in ISA suggest a movement of population away from the largest cities into less populated areas where land is more abundant and taxes and land values lower. Most counties experienced growth primarily in low- and mid-level density development (mainly housing). Except for a few exceptions, Lackawanna and Erie Counties, counties experiencing dominant growth in the high density categories were generally less developed and with less impervious surface area than the average.


LONG-TERM EVALUATION OF BENTHIC MACROINVERTEBRATE COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO WATERSHED
URBANIZATION: VALLEY CREEK WATERSHED, CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

Noah D’Antonio and Dr. Claire Jantz, Shippensburg University
Department of Geography and Earth Science

Abstract

Stream bank erosion, sedimentation, channel incision, pollutant loading, and increased flow rates resulting from increased impervious surface area affect water quality in the Valley Creek watershed.  This study uses a long term, detailed data set of benthic macroinvertebrates, supplied by the United States Geological Survey and Chester County Water Resources Authority, to assess the impacts of urbanization on stream water quality.  Land cover and impervious surfaces were correlated with macroinvertebrate communities at two study sites, the Valley Creek sub-watershed (12.5mi2) and the Little Valley Creek sub-watershed (6.5mi2).  Land cover change was assessed from 1971 to 1999 through heads up digitizing of aerial photography, and interpolated on an annual basis.  Impervious surface area coefficients were calculated for each land cover based on previous research and remotely sensed data.  Bivariate correlation was performed in order to investigate the relationship between total percent impervious surface and benthic macroinvertebrate metrics.  Total percent impervious surface and percent Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) showed significant negative correlation to one another. Overall, stream health based on percent EPT decreased with increasing impervious surface area.  In addition to exploring a long-term macroinvertebrate dataset as a surrogate for stream health, this paper highlights the need for more standardized methodology in remotely calculating impervious surface.