J.M. van Mourik
A. Faz Cano
- Amendments with organic and industrial wastes stimulate soil formation in mine tailings as revealed by micromorphology
- Volume | Issue number
- 154 | 1-2
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Mine tailings are inhospitable to plants and soil organisms, because of low pH and poor soil organic matter contents. Vegetation establishment requires a soil system capable of supporting the nutrient and water requirements of plants and associated organisms. The objective of this study was to understand the influence of added organic and industrial wastes to the formation of soils in degraded landscapes left behind by past mining activities. Specifically, we stimulated the build up of soil organic matter (SOM) and the accumulation of calcite in mine tailing deposits. We amended field experimental plots with pig manure (PM), sewage sludge (SS) in combination with blanket application of marble wastes (MW). Soil samples were collected for physical and chemical analyses, two years after the addition of industrial wastes. Three years after amendments, we took undisturbed samples for micromorphological analysis. Soil pH increased from 2.7 to 7.4 due to dissolution of calcite from MW amendment. The acidity in tailings and low rainfall in the study area precipitated the secondary calcite as infillings within the 0-4 cm layer. Total organic carbon (TOC) increased from 0.86 to 2.5 g TOC kg − 1 soil after 24 months since the application of amendments. The build up of SOM resulted to stable SOM-calcite complex as dense incomplete infillings mixed with secondary calcite, and cappings on calcite particles from MW addition. These SOM cappings provide water and nutrient to support initial seedling establishment in mine tailings. We attribute the granular structure of amended materials to soil organisms (e.g., earthworm activity) involved in the decomposition of plant materials. We suggest that any organic matter amendments to acidic mine tailing deposits must be combined with calcium carbonate-rich materials to accelerate the build up of SOM to accelerate the establishment of functional ecosystem characterized by, among others, the presence of healthy soils with granular microstructure.
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