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J Environ Qual. 2011 Jan-Feb;40(1):133-43.

Vegetation succession and impacts of biointrusion on covers used to limit acid mine drainage.

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Chaire CRSNG-Polytechnique-UQAT en environnement et gestion des rejets miniers, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT), 445 boul. de l'Université, Rouyn-Noranda, QC J9X 5E4.


A cover with capillary barrier effects (CCBE) was constructed in 1998 on the abandoned Lorraine mine tailings impoundment to limit the generation of acid mine drainage. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Fauna of Quebec (MRNF) is responsible for the site and for all restoration works on it, including CCBE construction. The CCBE is made up of three layers: a 0.3-m layer of sand used as a support and capillary break layer; a moisture-retaining layer with a thickness of 0.5 m (this layer is constructed of a nonplastic silt); and a 0.3-m sand and gravel layer on top. The main objective of the CCBE is to maintain one (or more) of the layers at a high degree of water saturation to impede oxygen migration and acid generation. Vegetation succession on the Lorraine CCBE results in an improvement in soil conditions, leading to the installation of deep-rooted species, which could represent a risk to CCBE long-term performance. Hence, the characterization of vegetation succession is an important aspect of the monitoring strategy for the Lorraine CCBE. Species occurrence was documented, and depth of tree roots was measured by excavation on a regular basis. Eight functional groups of plants were identified; herbaceous plants were the most abundant ecological plant groups. Tree ring counts confirmed that tree colonization started the year of CCBE construction (1999). Of the 11 tree species identified, the most abundant were poplar (Populus spp.), paper birch (Betula payrifera Marsh.), black spruce (Picea mariana Mill.), and willow (Salix spp.). Significant differences in occurrence related to environmental conditions were observed for most functional groups. Root excavation showed that tree roots exceeded the depth of the protective layer and started to reach the moisture-retaining layer; in 2008, root average depth was 0.4 m and the maximal root depth was 1.7 m.

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