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Environ Pollut. 1996;94(2):131-40.

Reclamation of a bare industrial area contaminated by non-ferrous metals: physico-chemical and biological evaluation of the durability of soil treatment and revegetation.

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Limburgs Universitair Centrum, Universitaire Campus, B-3590, Diepenbeek, Belgium.


In 1990, 3 ha of a highly metal polluted acid sandy soil at the site of a former pyrometallurgical zinc smelter was treated with a combination of beringite and compost; beringite is a substance that has a strong metal immobilization capacity. After soil treatment and sowing of a mixture of metal-tolerant Agrostis capillaris and Festuca rubra, a healthy vegetation cover developed. Five years later, an evaluation was made of soil physico-chemical parameters, potential phytotoxicity, floristic and fungal diversity and mycorrhizal infection of the plant community. Phytotoxicity was shown to be maintained at the low level observed immediately after soil treatment. The water-extractable metal fraction of the treated soil was up to 70 times lower compared to the non-treated soil. The vegetation was still healthy and regenerating by vegetative means and by seed. Diversity of higher plant species and saprophytic fungi was extremely low in the untreated area due to the high soil toxicity and the absence of metal tolerant ecotypes of plants and fungi. On the treated soil, in contrast, the species richness of higher plants was much higher; several perennial forbs which are not noted as metal tolerant had colonized the revegetated area. Most of these species belong to mycotrophic families so that the presence of a mycorrhizal network in the soil promotes their establishment. The ubiquity of the mycorrhizal fungi in the roots showed that a functioning ecosystem was establishing. In non-treated soil, the mycorrhizal infection rates of the roots were consistently lower during the whole growing season.


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