Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Plant diversity, net primary productivity and soil nutrient contents of a humid subtropical grassland remained low even after 50 years of post-disturbance recovery from coal mining

  • 50 Accesses

  • 1 Citations

Abstract

Assessment of environmental impact of coal mining on natural ecosystems and monitoring of subsequent ecological restoration process of mined areas are essential for devising reclamation strategies for mining-affected landscapes. The present study was designed to assess the post-disturbance recovery of vegetation, primary productivity and soil nutrient build-up of a humid subtropical grassland ecosystem following coal mining activities. Two replicate sites each for the undisturbed grasslands (UG), mining-affected (MG) and recovering grasslands of 15 (RG15) and 50 (RG50) years old were selected. There was a distinct pattern of species colonization and replacement during different years of recovery. Species richness, biomass, net primary productivity and soil pH declined following disturbance but increased with recovery age. Soil organic C and total N were high in the MG sites but significantly declined with recovery age. Soil total P and exchangeable K and Mg were low even at the 50th year of recovery indicating extremely slow recovery rate of these nutrients. Considering the extremely slow natural recovery of vegetation and soil nutrients, it is recommended to carry out artificial or aided vegetation restoration using native grass species tolerant to disturbance. Six species which are well-adapted to the mining environment and were present in both undisturbed and mining-affected recovering grasslands, viz. Arundinella khaseana, Cyanotis vaga, Eragrostis nigra, Polygonum bistorta and Fimbristylis hookeriana, are recommended for aided vegetation regeneration.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  1. Ahirwal, J., & Maiti, S. K. (2016). Assessment of soil properties of different land uses generated due to surface coal mining activities in tropical Sal (Shorea robusta) forest, India. Catena, 140, 155–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2016.01.028.

  2. Akala, V. A., & Lal, R. (2001). Soil organic carbon pools and sequestration rates in reclaimed minesoils in Ohio. Journal of Environmental Quality, 30, 2098–2104.

  3. Albert, Á., Kelemen, A., Valkó, O., Miglécz, T., Csecserits, A., Rédei, T., Deák, B., Tóthmérész, B., & Török, P. (2014). Secondary succession in sandy old-fields: a promising example of spontaneous grassland recovery. Applied Vegetation Science, 17, 214–224.

  4. Allen, S. E., Grimshaw, H. M., Parkinson, J. A., & Quarmby, C. (1974). Chemical analysis of ecological materials. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

  5. Amichev, B. Y. (2007). Biogeochemistry of carbon on disturbed forest landscapes. Ph.D. Dissertation. Blacksburg, VA: University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Forestry, pp. 371.

  6. Anderson, J. M., & Ingram, J. S. I. (1993). Tropical soil biology and fertility: a handbook of methods (2nd ed.). Wallingford: C.A.B. International.

  7. Ashby, W. C., Hannigan, K. P., & Kost, D. A. (1989). Coal mine reclamation with grass and legumes in southern Illinois. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 44, 79–83.

  8. Balakrishnan, N. P. (1981–1983). Flora of Jowai and Vicinity, Meghalaya. 2 vols. Howrah: Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

  9. Banasova, V., Horak, O., Čiamporová, M., & Nadubinská, M. (2006). The vegetation of metalliferous and non–metalliferous grasslands in two former mine regions in Central Slovakia. Biologia, 61, 433–439.

  10. Banning, N. C., Grant, C. D., Jones, D. L., & Murphy, D. V. (2008). Recovery of soil organic matter, organic matter turnover and nitrogen cycling in a post–mining forest rehabilitation chronosequences. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 40, 2021–2031.

  11. Bennett, O. L., Mathias, E. L., Armiger, W. H., & Jones, J. N. (1978). Plant materials and their requirements for growth in humid regions. In F. W. SchalIer & P. Sutton (Eds.), Reclamation of Drastically Disturbed Lands (pp. 285–306). Madison: American Society of Agronomy.

  12. Berg, W. A. (1975). Use of soil laboratory analysis in revegetation of mined lands. Mining Congress Journal, 61, 32.

  13. Biondini, M. E., Patton, B. D., & Nyren, P. E. (1998). Grazing intensity and ecosystem processes in a northern mixed–grass prairie, USA. Ecological Applications, 8, 469–479.

  14. Bledsoe, C. S., Fahey, T. J., Day, F. P., & Ruess, R. W. (1999). Measurement of static root parameters: Biomass, length and distribution in the soil profile. In G. P. Robertson, D. C. Coleman, C. S. Bledsoe, & P. Sollins (Eds.), Standard Soil Methods for Long–Term Ecological Research (pp. 413–437). New York: Oxford University Press.

  15. Bradshaw, A. D., & Chadwick, M. J. (1980). The restoration of land: the ecology and reclamation of derelict and degraded land. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publication.

  16. Brady, N. C. (2000). The nature and properties of soils (10th ed.). PHI: New Delhi.

  17. Bray, R. H., & Kurtz, L. T. (1945). Determination of total, organic and available forms of phosphorus in soils. Soil Science, 59, 39–45.

  18. Chaney, R. L., Angle, J. S., Broadhurst, C. L., Peters, C. A., Tappero, R. V., & Donald, L. S. (2007). Improved understanding of hyperaccumulation yields commercial phytoextraction and phytomining technologies. Journal Environmental Quality, 36, 1429–1442.

  19. Claassens, S., van Rensburg, P. J. J., Maboeta, M. S., & van Rensburg, L. (2008). Soil microbial community function and structure in a post–mining chronosequence. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 194, 315–329.

  20. Comas, L. H., Eissenstat, D. M., & Lakso, A. N. (2000). Assessing root death and root system dynamics in a study of grape canopy pruning. New Phytologist, 147, 171–178.

  21. Cornwell, S. M., & Stone, E. L. (1968). Availability of Nitrogen to Plants in Acid Coal Mine Spoils. Nature, 217, 768–769.

  22. Craine, J. M., Froehle, J., Tilman, G. D., Wedin, D. A., & Chapin, F. S. (2001). The relationships among root and leaf traits of 76 grassland species and relative abundance along fertility and disturbance gradients. Oikos, 93(2), 274–285. https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0706.2001.930210.x.

  23. Dejun, Y., Zhengfu, B., & Shaogang, L. (2016). Impact on soil physical qualities by the subsidence of coal mining: a case study in Western China. Environmental Earth Sciences, 75, 652. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-016-5439-2.

  24. Donggan, G., Zhongke, B., Tieliang, S., Hongbo, S., & Wen, Q. (2011). Impacts of coal mining on the aboveground vegetation and soil quality: a case study of Qinxin coal mine in Shanxi Province, China. Clean Soil, Air, Water, 39, 219–225.

  25. Ekka, N. J., & Behera, N. (2011). Species composition and diversity of vegetation developing on an age series of coal mine spoil in an open cast coal field in Orissa, India. Tropical Ecology, 52, 337–343.

  26. Frouz, J., Baldrian, P., Trogl, J., Snajdr, J., Vala skova, V., Merhautova, V., Cajthaml, T., & Herinkova, J. (2008). Enzyme activities and microbial biomass in topsoil layer during spontaneous succession in spoil heaps after brown coal mining. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 40, 2107–2115.

  27. Fyles, J. W., Fyles, I. H., & Bell, M. A. M. (1985). Vegetation and soil development on coal mine spoil at high elevation in the Canadian Rockies. Journal of Applied Ecology, 22, 239–248.

  28. Gao, Y. Z. (2008). Belowground net primary productivity and biomass allocation of a grassland in Inner Mongolia is affected by grazing intensity. Plant Soil, 307, 41–50.

  29. Ghose, M. K. (2002). Air pollution due to opencast coal mining and the characteristics of air–borne dust – an Indian scenario. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 59, 211–228.

  30. Gould, A. B., Hendrix, J. W., & Ferriss, R. S. (1996). Relationship of mycorrhizal activity to time following reclamation of surface mine land in western Kentucky. I. Propagule and spore population densities. Canadian Journal of Botany, 74, 247–261.

  31. Hammer, Ø., Harper, D. A. T., & Ryan, P. D. (2001). PAST: paleontological statistics software package for education and data analysis. Palaeontologia Electronica, 4, 9.

  32. Haridasan, K., & Rao, R. R. (1985–1987). Forest flora of Meghalaya. 2 Vols. Dehradun: Bishen Singh Mahendrapal Singh.

  33. Helm, D. J. (1995). Native grass cultivars for multiple revegetation goals on a proposed mine site in southcentral Alaska. Restoration Ecology, 20, 111–122.

  34. Hodacova, D., & Prach, K. (2003). Spoil heaps from brown coal mining: Technical reclamation versus spontaneous revegetation. Restoration Ecology, 11, 385–391.

  35. Huang, Y., Tian, F., Wang, Y., Wang, M., & Hu, Z. (2015). Effect of coal mining on vegetation disturbance and associated carbon loss. Environmental Earth Sciences, 73, 2329–2342. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-014-3584-z.

  36. Ingram, L. J., Schuman, G. E., Stahl, P. D., & Spackman, L. K. (2005). Microbial respiration and organic carbon indicate nutrient cycling recovery in reclaimed soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 69, 1737–1745.

  37. Jackson, M. K. (1973). Soil chemical analysis. Engle Wood Cliffs: Prentice Hall Inc..

  38. Jha, A. K., & Singh, J. S. (1991). Spoil characteristics and vegetation development of an age series of mine spoils in a dry tropical environment. Vegetatio, 97, 63–76.

  39. Kahmen, A., Perner, J., & Buchmann, N. (2005). Diversity–dependent productivity in semi–natural grasslands following climate perturbations. Functional Ecology, 19, 594–601.

  40. Katzur, J., & Haubold-Rosar, M. (1996). Amelioration and reforestation of sulfurous mine soils in Lusatia (Eastern Germany). Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 91, 17–32.

  41. Kent, M. (2012). Vegetation description and data analysis: a practical approach (2nd ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

  42. Kirmer, A., & Mahn, E. G. (2001). Spontaneous and initiated succession on un–vegetated slopes in the abandoned lignite–mining area of Goitsche, Germany. Applied Vegetation Science, 4, 19–27.

  43. Kneller, T., Harris, R. J., Bateman, A., & Munoz-Rojas, M. (2018). Native-plant amendments and topsoil addition enhance soil function in post-mining arid grasslands. Science of the Total Environment, 621, 744–752.

  44. Kooch, Y., Hosseini, S. M., Mohammadi, J., & Hojjati, S. M. (2010). The effects of gap disturbance on soil chemical and biochemical properties in a mixed Beech–Hornbeam Forest of Iran. Ecologia Balkanica, 2, 39–56.

  45. Kundu, N. K., & Ghose, M. K. (1998). Studies on the existing plant communities in Eastern Coalfield areas with a view to reclamation of mined out land. Journal of Environmental Biology, 19, 83–89.

  46. Li, Y. M., Chaney, R. L., Brewer, E. P., Roseberg, R. J., Angle, J. S., Baker, A. J. M., Reeves, R. D., & Nelkin, J. (2003). Development of a technology for commercial phytoextraction of nickel: Economic and technical considerations. Plant Soil, 249, 107–115.

  47. Loreau, M. (2000). Biodiversity and ecosystem function: recent theoretical advances. Oikos, 91, 3–17.

  48. Louhaichi, M., Ghassali, F., Salkini, A. K., & Petersen, S. L. (2012). Effect of sheep grazing on rangeland plant communities: case study of landscape depressions within Syrian arid steppes. Journal of Arid Environments, 79, 101–106.

  49. Maiti, S. K., & Ghose, M. K. (2005). Ecological restoration of acidic coal–mine overburden dumps – an Indian case study. Land Contamination and Reclamation, 13, 361–369.

  50. Mays, D. A., & Bengtson, G. W. (1978). Lime and fertilizer use in land reclamation in humid regions. In F. W. SchalIer & P. Sutton (Eds.), Reclamation of Drastically Disturbed Lands (pp. 307–328). Madison: American Society of Agronomy.

  51. McGrath, H. J. (2001). Developmental changes in chemical and physical properties of coal valley minesoils in the Central Alberta foothills. Ph.D. Thesis, Calgary, Alberta.

  52. Misra, R. (1968). Ecology Work Book. New Delhi: Oxford and IBH Publication Co..

  53. Müller, I., Schmid, B., & Weiner, J. (2000). The effect of nutrient availability on biomass allocation patterns in 27 species of herbaceous plants. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 3(2), 115–127.

  54. Mylliemngap, W., Nath, D., & Barik, S. K. (2016). Changes in vegetation and nitrogen mineralization during recovery of a montane subtropical broadleaved forest in North-eastern India following anthropogenic disturbance. Ecological Research, 31(1), 21–38. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-015-1309-8.

  55. Poorter, H., & Nagel, O. (2000). The role of biomass allocation in the growth response of plants to different levels of light, CO2, nutrients and water: a quantitative review. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology, 27(6), 595–607.

  56. Power, J. F., Bond, J. J., Sandoval, F. M., & Willis, W. D. (1974). Nitrification in Paleocene shale. Science, 183, 1077–1079.

  57. Rai, A. K., & Paul, B. (2011). Degradation of soil quality parameters due to coal mining operations in Jharia coalfield, Jharkhand, India. Journal of Advanced Laboratory Research in Biology, 2, 51–56.

  58. Rao, P., Barik, S. K., Pandey, H. N., & Tripathi, R. S. (1990). Community composition and tree population structure in a subtropical broad–leaved forest along a disturbance gradient. Vegetatio, 88, 151–162.

  59. Reeder, J. D., & Berg, W. A. (1977). Nitrogen mineralization and nitrification in cretaceous shale and coalmine spoils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 41, 922–927.

  60. Rumpel, C., Knicker, H., Kogel-Knabner, I., & Huttl, R. F. (1998). Airborne contamination of immature soil (Lusation mining district) by lignite–derived materials: Its detection and contribution to the soil organic matter budget. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 105, 481–492.

  61. Sapkota, I. P., Tigabu, M., & Oden, P. C. (2010). Changes in tree species diversity and dominance across a disturbance gradient in Nepalese Sal (Shorea robusta Gaertn. f.) forests. Journal of Forestry Research, 2, 25–32.

  62. Sarma, K. (2005). Impact of coal mining on vegetation: a case study in Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya, India. M.Sc. Thesis. International Institute for Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Enschede, The Netherlands.

  63. Sarma, K., Kushwaha, S. P. S., & Singh, K. J. (2010). Impact of coal mining on plant diversity and tree population structure in Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, North-East India. New York Science Journal, 6, 79–85.

  64. Schaaf, W., & Hüttl, R. F. (2005). Soil chemistry and tree nutrition of post–lignite–mining sites. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 168, 483–488.

  65. Shankar, U., Pandey, H. N., & Tripathi, R. S. (1993). Phytomass dynamics and primary productivity in humid grasslands along altitudinal and rainfall gradients. Acta Ecologica, 14, 197–209.

  66. Sieg, C. H., Uresk, D. W., & Hansen, R. M. (1983). Plant–soil relationships on bentonite mine spoils and sagebrush–grassland in the northern High Plains. Journal of Range Management, 37, 289–294.

  67. Sierra, C. A., Del-Valle, J. I., & Orrego, S. A. (2003). Accounting for fine root mass sample losses in the washing process: a case study from a tropical montane forest of Colombia. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 19, 599–601.

  68. Singh, J. S., Lauenroth, W. K., Hunt, H. W., & Swift, D. M. (1975). Review and assessment of various techniques for estimating net aerial primary productivity in grasslands from harvest data. Botanical Review, 41, 181–232.

  69. Sørensen, J. (1948). A method of establishing groups of equal amplitude in plant sociology based on similarity of species content. Detkong. Dauske Vidrnsk Selsk Biol Skn, 5, 1–34.

  70. Tiwari, B. K. (1996). Impact of coal mining on ecosystem health in Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya. In P. S. Ramakrishnan, A. N. Purohit, K. G. Saxena, K. S. Rao, & R. K. Maikhuri (Eds.), Conservation and management of biological resources in Himalaya. New Delhi: Oxford IBH Co..

  71. Ussiri, D. A. N., Lal, R., & Jacinthe, P. A. (2006). Soil properties and carbon sequestration of afforested pastures in reclaimed minesoils of Ohio. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 70, 1797–1806.

  72. Vickers, H., Gillespie, M., & Gravina, A. (2012). Assessing the development of rehabilitated grasslands on post–mined landforms in northwest Queensland, Australia. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 163, 72–84.

  73. Vogel, W. G. (1981). A guide for revegetating coal mine soils in the eastern United States. Washington, DC: USDA NE Forest Exp. Stn. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE–68 US. Gov. Print Office Washington, DC.

  74. Wang, X., Li, M. H., Liu, S., & Liu, G. (2006). Fractal characteristics of soils under different land use patterns in the arid and semiarid regions of the Tibetan Plateau, China. Geoderma, 134, 56–61.

  75. Waschkies, C., & Huttl, R. (1999). Microbial degradation of geogenic organic C and N in mine spoil. Plant and Soil, 213(1), 221–230. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1004539502221.

  76. Westhoff, V., & van der Maarel, E. (1978). The Braun-Blanquet approach. In R. H. Whittaker (Ed.), Classification of plant communities (pp. 287–399). The Hague: Dr. W. Junk.

  77. Wyatt, J. W., Dollhopf, D. J., & Schafer, W. M. (1980). Root distribution in 1- to 48-yr-old strip mine spoils in south–eastern Montana. Journal of Range Management, 22, 101–104.

  78. Zhao, X., Wang, Q., & Kakubari, Y. (2011). Seasonal dynamics of soil microbial biomass C shows close correlation with environmental factors in natural Fagus crenata forests. Plant Soil Science, 61, 322–332.

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors express their gratitude to the Coordinator of Centre for Advance Studies (CAS) in Botany, Head of Botany Department, NEHU, and UGC for the facilities created under the CAS in Botany programme which were utilized for this research. The first author gratefully acknowledges financial assistance by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Govt. of India in the form of NET-Junior Research Fellowship (File No: 09/347(0175)/2005-EMR-I). Thanks are also due to the Headman of Laitryngew village who gave permission to carry out the research work in the grassland sites under his jurisdiction.

Author information

Correspondence to S. K. Barik.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Terrestrial and Ocean Dynamics: India Perspective

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mylliemngap, W., Barik, S.K. Plant diversity, net primary productivity and soil nutrient contents of a humid subtropical grassland remained low even after 50 years of post-disturbance recovery from coal mining. Environ Monit Assess 191, 697 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-019-7688-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Coal mine dumping
  • Grassland
  • Nitrogen
  • Recovery