Restoring vegetation on waste rock dumps at the Telfer mine site in Australia's Great Sandy Desert: topsoil management and plant establishment

Peter Golos

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Abstract

    [Truncated abstract] Topsoil is a valuable resource for restoring vegetation cover to post-mine sites as the seed bank contained in the topsoil is considered to be the most practical means of plant replacement where a majority of species have soil stored seed. The correct handling of topsoil and preparation of restoration sites is crucial to the success of vegetation restoration to post-mine sites. This study describes and quantifies the soil seed bank in topsoil of three major landforms, sandplains sand dunes and stony hills and its effectiveness for vegetation restoration on waste rock dumps at Telfer mine site in Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. Ex situ analysis of soil core samples collected from three dominant landforms at Telfer found the mean number of germinable seeds ranged from 525 seedlings.m-2 (39 species) in sandplains, 457 seedlings.m-2 (17 species) in stony hills to 236 seedlings.m-2 (11 species) in sand dunes, with 84% of germinable seeds in sandplains found in the top 5 cm, 60% of germinable seeds in sand dunes found in the top 5 cm and, with limited sampling, 93% of germinable seeds in stony hills found in the top 2 cm. In situ analysis found disturbance is required to stimulate germination of the soil seed bank with the highest seedling emergence from burning followed by vegetation clearing then scrubbing. However, with the application of aerosol smoke, seedling emergence numbers were greater in scrubbed than cleared and burnt sites indicating a significant reduction in the size of the germinable seed bank when vegetation is removed by burning or clearing. After returning topsoil to restoration sites on waste rock dumps, seedling emergence was greater in sandplain topsoil than in sand dune and stony hills topsoil and is attributed to differences in the size of the soil seed bank after stripping and spreading operations, but also to soil texture differences resulting in differences in soil moisture availability and soil strength.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

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