Monitoring soil biological properties during the restoration of a phosphate mine under different tree species and plantation types.

Affiliation

Yunnan Academy of Forestry, Kunming, 650201, China. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Open-pit mining activities for minerals and metals have left an international legacy of highly polluted soils and degraded landscapes. Reforestation is usually supposed to restore soil fertility and ecosystem services, and therefore to remediate and recover polluted sites. However, our understanding of the effects of tree species and recovery time on the restoration of abiotic and biotic soil properties remains scarce. In this study, the effects of a series of restoration chronosequence (unrestored control, 10-year, 20-year, and natural forest) and plantation types (nitrogen-fixing broad-leaved Alnus nepalensis and coniferous Cupressus torulosa monocultures, as well as their mixed plantation) on soil physicochemical and biological properties were explored in a phosphate mine. Our results showed that soil quality index (SQI), which integrates important soil physical, chemical, and biological parameters including bulk density, soil organic carbon and microbial biomass, could provide valuable information about soil health. The average SQI values of 20-year plantations were 1.55 times of 10-year plantations, and the mixed plantation was 1.13 and 1.27 times of A. nepalensis and C. torulosa monoculture, respectively. Thus, recovery time, as well as plantation type, were the main determinants of the alterations in key soil conditions during the phosphate mining restoration. At the beginning restoration (10 years), A. nepalensis monoculture performed better than C. torulosa, providing an efficient restoration strategy for early revegetation. The mixed plantation of C. torulosa and A. nepalensis showed the higher moisture and soil organic carbon than did the monocultures, especially after 20 years of revegetation. Hence, our findings address a helpful guideline for selection of tree species and plantation practices, thereby aiding in long-term success of restoration.

Keywords

Bioindicators,Microbial and nematode community,Phytoremediation,Soil quality index,

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