Soil DNA chronosequence analysis shows bacterial community re-assembly following post-mining forest rehabilitation

Shawn D. Peddle, Andrew Bissett, Ryan J. Borrett, Paul Bullock, Michael G. Gardner, Craig Liddicoat, Mark Tibbett, Martin F. Breed, Siegfried L. Krauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Mining activities modify both aboveground and belowground ecological communities, presenting substantial challenges for restoration. The soil microbiome is one of these impacted communities and performs important ecosystem functions but receives limited focus in restoration. Sequencing soil DNA enables accurate and cost-effective assessment of soil microbiota, allowing for comparisons across land use, environmental, and temporal gradients. We used amplicon sequencing of the bacterial 16s rRNA gene extracted from soil samples across a 28-year post-mining rehabilitation chronosequence to assess soil bacterial composition and diversity following rehabilitation at a bauxite mine in Western Australia's jarrah forest. We show that while bacterial alpha diversity did not differ between reference and rehabilitated sites, bacterial community composition changed dramatically across the chronosequence, suggesting strong impacts by mining and rehabilitation activities. Bacterial communities generally became increasingly similar to unmined reference sites with time since rehabilitation. Soil from sites rehabilitated as recently as 14 years ago did not have significantly different communities to reference sites. Overall, our study provides evidence indicating the recovery of soil bacterial communities toward reference states following rehabilitation. Including several ecological reference sites revealed substantial natural variability in bacterial communities from within a single mine site. We urge future restoration chronosequence studies to sample reference sites that geographically span the restored sites and/or are spatially paired with restored sites to ensure this variability is captured and to improve any inferences on recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13706
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date29 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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