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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ecosystem Restoration

Hardwood Seedling Growth on Different Mine Spoil Types with and without Topsoil Amendment


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 39 No. 2, p. 483-491
    Received: Dec 4, 2008

    * Corresponding author(s): jaburger@vt.edu
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  1. Julia M. Showaltera,
  2. James A. Burger *a and
  3. Carl E. Zipperb
  1. a Dep. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation (0324), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., 228 Cheatham Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061
    b Dep. of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences (0404), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., 363 Smyth Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061


The goal of many owners of reclaimed mined land in the Appalachian region is to restore the diverse native hardwood forest for environmental, economic, and cultural reasons. However, native hardwoods often grow poorly on mined sites because they are planted in unsuitable spoils devoid of native topsoil. In a greenhouse experiment, we examined the suitability of four growth media available for use on many mined sites in the central Appalachians—forest topsoil (FT), weathered sandstone (WS), unweathered sandstone (US), and unweathered shale (UH)—as well as the effects of topsoil amendment (none vs. amended) on the growth of three native hardwood species: Fraxinus americana, Quercus rubra, and Liriodendron tulipifera A 4 × 2 × 3 factorial greenhouse experiment was conducted with planted 1-yr-old seedlings. Tree growth, foliar nutrients, and soil properties were measured and characterized. The WS was the spoil most conducive to growth for F. americana and Q. rubra. Liriodendron tulipifera did not respond to any treatments. Tree growth was highly correlated with mineralizable soil nitrogen and extractable soil phosphorus. Topsoil amendment significantly increased growth on the UH but not on the US or WS. Topsoil amendment increased the number of native herbaceous plants growing in the pots and improved foliar nutrient content in F. americana and L. tulipifera Many properties of the WS, such as pH, microbial activity, and water availability, more closely approximated the control soil than the US or UH. This study showed that trees are sensitive to spoil type and that certain spoil types that are conducive to good growth of native trees should be used during the reclamation process, particularly if forest topsoil is not applied. Forest topsoil amendment improved tree growth on some spoil materials, improved tree nutrition, and helped restore the native soil organisms and plants that were present before mining.

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