Assessment of Vegetation Establishment on Tailings Dam at an Iron Ore Mining Site of Suburban Beijing, China, 7 Years After Reclamation with Contrasting Site Treatment Methods
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- Yan, D., Zhao, F. & Sun, O.J. Environmental Management (2013) 52: 748. doi:10.1007/s00267-013-0092-y
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Strip-mining operations greatly disturb soil, vegetation and landscape elements, causing many ecological and environmental problems. Establishment of vegetation is a critical step in achieving the goal of ecosystem restoration in mining areas. At the Shouyun Iron Ore Mine in suburban Beijing, China, we investigated selective vegetation and soil traits on a tailings dam 7 years after site treatments with three contrasting approaches: (1) soil covering (designated as SC), (2) application of a straw mat, known as “vegetation carpet”, which contains prescribed plant seed mix and water retaining agent (designated as VC), on top of sand piles, and (3) combination of soil covering and application of vegetation carpet (designated as SC+VC). We found that after 7 years of reclamation, the SC+VC site had twice the number of plant species and greater biomass than the SC and VC sites, and that the VC site had a comparable plant abundance with the SC+VC site but much less biodiversity and plant coverage. The VC site did not differ with the SC site in the vegetation traits, albeit low soil fertility. It is suggested that application of vegetation carpet can be an alternative to introduction of topsoil for treatment of tailings dam with fine-structured substrate of ore sands. However, combination of topsoil treatment and application of vegetation carpet greatly increases vegetation coverage and plant biodiversity, and is therefore a much better approach for assisting vegetation establishment on the tailings dam of strip-mining operations. While application of vegetation carpet helps to stabilize the loose surface of fine-structured mine wastes and to introduce seed bank, introduction of fertile soil is necessary for supplying nutrients to plant growth in the efforts of ecosystem restoration of mining areas.