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Environ Monit Assess. 2013 Aug;185(8):6921-32. doi: 10.1007/s10661-013-3075-9. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

Assessment of Robinia pseudoacacia cultivations as a restoration strategy for reclaimed mine spoil heaps.

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Department of Ecology, School of Biology, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, U.P. Box 119, 54124, Greece.


Reforestation with black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is considered a successful technique that is often used for the reclamation of open-cast mine areas. An alternative reclamation technique could be the natural regeneration of vegetation with spontaneous grass species. In this study, we compared the concentrations of chemical and biochemical variables in soil samples taken under black locust canopy to those from sites covered by spontaneous grass vegetation (control samples) in a time sequence of spoil deposition (0-10 years), in order to assess which of the two reclamation techniques yields higher soil quality. Soil quality refers here to the ability of soils to function ecologically. This has a special interest since the main question for the restored soils is their capacity to perform a range of ecological functions under stress or disturbance. Furthermore, we aimed at identifying the effect of vegetation type on soil ecological succession. The effect of vegetation type on primary succession becomes apparent after 2 years of reclamation. R. pseudoacacia as a nitrogen-fixing plant enriched soil with organic and inorganic nitrogen and organic matter to a greater extent than the natural grasses. It also increased the amount of soil microbial biomass and the activity of alkaline phosphatase. However, the fact that black locust failed to enhance dehydrogenase activity and actually decreased the activity of urease, activities that represent specialized niche functions and therefore, are more vulnerable to stress or disturbance, suggests that the development of an indigenous grass community in combination with organic supplements might often be more appropriate for the reclamation of similar kinds of mine areas.

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