The relationships between functional and physicochemical soil parameters in metal(loid) mine tailings from Mediterranean semiarid areas support the value of spontaneous vegetation colonization for phytomanagement

Journal ar
Ecological Engineering
  • Volumen: 168
  • Fecha: 01 October 2021
  • ISSN: 09258574
  • Source Type: Journal
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2021.106293
  • Document Type: Article
  • Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.Spontaneous growth of native vegetation in abandoned metal(loid) mine tailings can be valuable for phytomanagement restoration projects. This study aimed to assess the degree to which spontaneous plant colonization of abandoned metal(loid) mine tailings from Mediterranean semiarid areas led to functional soil improvement, and to identify, if possible, a critical level indicating that this functionality was moving towards that of the vegetated soils from the surroundings. Vegetation ecological indexes, plant life forms and species functional roles, together with physicochemical and functional soils parameters, were studied in metal(loid) mine tailings abandoned ~40 years ago and surrounding forests in SE Spain. Vegetation patches showed only small differences in physicochemical parameters related to soil abiotic stress conditions (pH, salinity and metals), regardless of the vegetation. However, vegetation patches with greater species diversity and richness and presence of plants with contrasted life forms and functional traits that facilitate the growth of less stress-tolerant species showed an increase of the soil microbial functionality (higher microbial biomass C, ß-glucosidase activity, bacterial metabolic activity and functional diversity). Moreover, these vegetation patches showed a functional soil status comparable to that of the forests outside the mine tailings. In this sense, the present study showed the value of preserving these vegetation patches since they may act as nucleation spots favoring positive plant-soil feedbacks that may help to accelerate the functional recovery of these degraded areas. Furthermore, strategies to promote the creation of new vegetation patches including a variety of species with contrasted life forms and functional traits should be considered in phytomanagement restoration projects for abandoned metal(loid) mine tailings.

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