Canadian Forest Service Publications

Use of shrub willows (Salix spp.) to develop soil communities during coal mine restoration. 2017. Sylvain, Z.; Mosseler, A. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 47: 1687–1694/

Year: 2017

Available from: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39578

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2017-0196

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Abstract

Afforestation or reforestation in highly degraded environments (e.g., surface mines) is often complicated by the total removal of vegetation and severe soil degradation that occurs during mining operations, necessitating revegetation to be undertaken in tandem with the re-establishment of soil developmental processes. Shrub willows (Salix spp.) are effective as colonizer species initiating revegetation dynamics; however, it is unclear if they also serve as nurse plants facilitating the establishment of soil communities such as those of nematodes. We established a study in a former coal mine site in New Brunswick, Canada, to assess whether the presence of willows on otherwise bare, poorly developed soil contributed to nematode community development and to what degree landform design (e.g., slope) may influence these dynamics. Our results demonstrate that willows can facilitate nematode communities at this site, but that slope strongly influences these effects, likely as a consequence of hydrology and overland water flow. These results confirm the beneficial role that willows can play in reforestation of highly degraded environments both for revegetation and for the re-initiation of soil ecosystem processes.

Plain Language Summary

Reclamation and reforestation in highly degraded environments such as surface mines and oil sands operations are often complicated by the total removal of vegetation and severe soil degradation. Often, this requires revegetation to be undertaken in tandem with the reestablishment of soil developmental processes. We use shrub willows to initiate revegetation dynamics; however, it is unclear to what degree willows also serve as effective nurse plants for the establishment of the microbial soil communities normally associated with productive forest soils. Nematodes serve as important indicators for the reestablishment of these microbial communities. We established a study in a former coal mine site in New Brunswick, Canada to assess whether the presence of willows on otherwise bare, poorly developed soil contributed to nematode community development. Our results demonstrate that willows can facilitate nematode communities at this site. These results confirm the beneficial role willows can play in the reclamation of highly degraded environments both for revegetation and for the reinitiation of soil ecosystem processes.

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