Spatial distribution and concentration of sulfur in relation to vegetation cover and soil properties on a reclaimed sulfur mine site (Southern Poland)

Abstract

This work aims to assess the spatial distribution and concentration of sulfur in the topsoil layer and to determine the relationships between sulfur concentration, soil pH, soil electrical conductivity, and plant cover at the reforested site of the former sulfur mine (Southern Poland). Soil samples were collected from 0 to 20 cm (topsoil) from a total of 86 sampling points in a regular square grid with sides of 150 m. Plant cover was assayed in circular plots with an area of 100 m2, divided into a woody plant layer and herbaceous plant layer. Soil properties such as particle size distribution, pH in KCl and H2O, soil electrical conductivity (EC), soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (NT), and total sulfur (ST) were determined. The degree of soil contamination with sulfur was assessed based on the guidelines of the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation (IUNG), Poland. The results indicate that remediation and application of lime were not fully effective in spatial variation, because 33 points with sulfur contamination above 500 mg kg−1 were observed. These spots occurred irregularly in the topsoil horizons. This high sulfur concentration in the soil did not result in severe acidification (below 4.5) in all cases, most likely due to neutralization from the application of high doses of flotation lime. High vegetative cover occurred at some points with high soil sulfur concentrations, with two points having S concentration above 40,000 mg kg−1 and tree cover about 60%. Numerous points with high soil EC above 1500 μS cm−1 as well as limited vegetation and high soil sulfur concentrations, however, indicate that the reclamation to forest is still not completely successful.

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Acknowledgements

This research was financed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland, Statutory Funds for Young Researchers and Doctoral Students, BM-4444/ZELiR/15, Department of Forest Ecology and Reclamation, Institute of Forest Ecology and Silviculture.

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Correspondence to Justyna Likus-Cieślik.

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Likus-Cieślik, J., Pietrzykowski, M., Szostak, M. et al. Spatial distribution and concentration of sulfur in relation to vegetation cover and soil properties on a reclaimed sulfur mine site (Southern Poland). Environ Monit Assess 189, 87 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-017-5803-z

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Keywords

  • Sulfur mining
  • Reforestation
  • Sulfurous soil
  • Soil contamination
  • Vegetation cover