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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 4, p. 1145-1153
    Received: Aug 16, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): helja-sisko.helmisaari@metla.fi
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Remediation of Heavy Metal–Contaminated Forest Soil Using Recycled Organic Matter and Native Woody Plants

  1. H.-S. Helmisaari *a,
  2. M. Salemaaa,
  3. J. Deromeb,
  4. O. Kiikkiläa,
  5. C. Uhligc and
  6. T. M. Nieminena
  1. a Finnish Forest Research Inst., Vantaa Research Unit, P.O. Box 18, FI-01301 Vantaa, Finland
    b Finnish Forest Research Inst., Rovaniemi Research Unit, P.O. Box 16, FI-96301 Rovaniemi, Finland
    c Bioforsk Nord Holt, The Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, N-9292 Tromsø, Norway


The main aim of this study was to determine how the application of a mulch cover (a mixture of household biocompost and woodchips) onto heavy metal–polluted forest soil affects (i) long-term survival and growth of planted dwarf shrubs and tree seedlings and (ii) natural revegetation. Native woody plants (Pinus sylvestris, Betula pubescens, Empetrum nigrum, and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) were planted in mulch pockets on mulch-covered and uncovered plots in summer 1996 in a highly polluted Scots pine stand in southwest Finland. Spreading a mulch layer on the soil surface was essential for the recolonization of natural vegetation and increased dwarf shrub survival, partly through protection against drought. Despite initial mortality, transplant establishment was relatively successful during the following 10 yr. Tree species had higher survival rates, but the dwarf shrubs covered a larger area of the soil surface during the experiment. Especially E. nigrum and P. sylvestris proved to be suitable for revegetating heavy metal–polluted and degraded forests. Natural recolonization of pioneer species (e.g., Epilobium angustifolium, Taraxacum coll., and grasses) and tree seedlings (P. sylvestris, Betula sp., and Salix sp.) was strongly enhanced on the mulched plots, whereas there was no natural vegetation on the untreated plots. These results indicate that a heavy metal–polluted site can be ecologically remediated without having to remove the soil. Household compost and woodchips are low-cost mulching materials that are suitable for restoring heavy metal–polluted soil.

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