Revegetation of coal mine dumps to ameliorate effects of acidic seepage.
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Species prescriptions are developed for revegetating abandoned acidic coal overburden seepage sites in the Collie region of Western Australia. The research involved selecting appropriate plant species and determining successful methods of enhancing revegetation. Candidate species were screened for tolerance to acidic overburden materials, local climate conditions and metal toxicity. Methods tested included improving spoil conditions and trialing an alternative method for seeding.Twelve species of native plants were tested for tolerance in two acid overburden materials in pot and field trials. Eucalyptus robusta is the most tolerant, Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Eucalyptus cladocalyx are highly tolerant, Eucalyptus rudis and Melaleuca hamulosa demonstrate potential, provided adequate soil moisture is available.An important growth restriction factor in acid soils is the presence of free aluminium ions. A glasshouse trial performed on seven species for tolerance to aluminium toxicity revealed E. robusta as most tolerant and E. camaldulensis and Kunzea ericifolia a highly tolerant. E. rudis and M. hamulosa are moderately tolerant, but E. cladocalyx and Eucalyptus diversicolor are very sensitive to aluminium.Various methods were trialed to increase growth of seedlings transplanted on to acidic overburden sites. Both commercial cow manure and slow-release fertiliser tablets increase growth, whereas commercial potting mix and lime do not. Inoculation of plants with the ectomycorrhiza fungus Pisolithus tinctorius increases the amount of infection in roots but does not enhance plant growth.Supplementary fertilisation is necessary to maintain growth (nitrogen) and restore chlorophyll production (phosphorus) in fast growing eucalypt seedlings planted into typical acidic spoils. Poor levels of nutrient availability in such acidic sites appear to be the primary factor in retarding growth. In the absence of supplementation, foliage reddening is observed in several species.An alternative method of seeding dumps is fascining. Prepared dump surfaces may be covered with capsule-laden branchwood of myrtaceous species. Material of the locally available Kunzea ericifolia is effective in producing many seedlings. Subsequent seedling growth is enhanced with fertiliser and lime addition.
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