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  • Soils, Sec 2 • Global Change, Environ Risk Assess, Sustainable Land Use • Research Article
  • Published:

Acid-tolerant plant species screened for rehabilitating acid mine drainage sites



Large areas of land have been impacted by acidic mine drainage. These sites could potentially be re-vegetated for growing energy plants. Conventional phytoremediation method may fail because the pH of some mine drainage and contaminated soils can reach 2.0. Thus, it is necessary to screen acid-tolerant plants as pioneers to rehabilitate those severely acidified areas.

Materials and methods

In the first phase of this study, seven levels of low pH media were used to estimate the acid-tolerant ranges of three plant species for 1 month. In the second phase, 50 commonly cultured plant species from 17 families, native in Guangdong Province of China or introduced from Australia, were evaluated for acid tolerance at three pH levels which were chosen based on results in the first phase.

Results and discussion

We found that Acacia auriculiformis could survive and nodulate at pH ≥2.0, Acacia confusa and Melaleuca armillaris could survive at pH ≥2.5 but A. confusa nodulate at pH >3.5. In the second phase, 12 plant species, in addition to A. auriculiformis, can survive in pH 2.0 media.


No family or genus commonality in acid tolerance was found. Two of these tolerant species, i.e., A. auriculiformis and Jatropha carcas, could potentially be planted as an economically and ecologically viable option for acid mine remediation due to their potential function as biofuel feedstock.

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We thank Professor Xiaomei Deng, Dr. Hao Huang, Boyong Liao, and Xiangbin Zhou for germinating seeds; Juncheng Li for technical assistance; and Professor Zhengxi Tan and Dr. Weixin Zhang for their valuable comments to improve the initial manuscript. This study was supported by The State Forestry Administration Project 948 of China (Grant No. 2011-4-75)

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Correspondence to Xiaoyang Chen or Jun Xie.

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Responsible editor: Hailong Wang

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Ma, L., Rao, X., Lu, P. et al. Acid-tolerant plant species screened for rehabilitating acid mine drainage sites. J Soils Sediments 15, 1104–1112 (2015).

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  • Acacia auriculiformis
  • Acid mine drainage site
  • Bioenergy plant
  • Jatropha carcas
  • Phytoremediation
  • Strong acid tolerant