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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Responses of Soil Biota to Organic Amendments in Stripmine Spoils in Northwestern New Mexico1


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 13 No. 2, p. 215-219
    Received: May 31, 1983

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  1. Ned Z. Elkins,
  2. Lawrence W. Parker,
  3. Earl Aldon and
  4. W. G. Whitford2



We examined the effects of organic amendments and topsoiling on the soil biota and decomposition in order to evaluate the relative efficacy of the amendments in restarting soil processes. We studied decomposition of barley straw (Hordeum vulgare) and populations of soil biota on strip coal-mine spoils in northwestern New Mexico. The spoils had been amended with straw mulch, bark, topsoil, or no organic additives. Decomposition rates were highest in the unmined area and the bark, amended spoils (K = 0.64 yr−1) (K = first-order rate constant), and lowest on the topsoil amendment and unamended spoil (K = 0.34 yr−1). Few differences were observed in the populations of soil microflora. Where differences were observed, the bark-amended spoils had the highest populations and biomass. Soil microflora activity, as indicated by decomposition rates, was enhanced by bark amendment. Soil microfaunal populations were highest on the bark-amended spoils and unmined soil. Important soil mites (soil Acari), the oribatids, were found only in the bark-amended spoils and the unmined soils. These studies suggest that addition of selected organic amendments (bark) to mine spoils may be as effective in developing a soil as the more expensive topsoil/mulch procedures currently used in reclamation procedures.

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