Compounds that promote plant diversity are key to ecological restoration in surface coal mining dumps

Lead researcher Fu Chen, from the China University of Mines and Technology, conducted a series of studies on restoring damaged mining ecosystems to prove his hypothesis.

In one of the studies, Chen was able to demonstrate that the direction of succession of Pinus tabulaeformis plantations have shifted considerably due to invasion from surrounding plants, resulting in an obvious increase in species numbers and plant cover.

His team also found that the original vegetation pattern, soil nutrient conditions, and soil microbial communities were altered due to secondary succession.

“We chose to study the Antaibao surface coal mine located in the eastern Loess Plateau, where some artificial restoration projects started in 1992,” Chen said in a press release.

“Plantations with the same vegetation configuration and artificial management measures had different restoration effects after 30 years of recovery. Therefore, the Antaibao surface coal mine provides an appropriate and high-quality platform for studying the mechanisms of monoculture plantations on the secondary succession of the mining ecosystem.

As a result of their analyses, Chen and his group noticed that the original vegetation configuration and soil nutrient conditions were altered due to secondary succession. With the progress of secondary succession process, plant cover increased from 34.8% to 95.5%, soil organic matter increased from 9.30 g kg-1 to 21.13 g kg -1 and total nitrogen increased from 0.38 g·kg-1 to 1.01 g·kg-1. The activities of soil urease and β-glucosidase were increased by 1.7 times and 53.26%, respectively.

Additionally, secondary succession also altered the structure and function of the soil microbial community. The relative abundance of Nitrospire genus that dominates nitrification increased by 5.2 times. This result suggests that the invasion and spread of native and surrounding plants had a positive effect on ecological restoration, which is useful for exploring more reasonable vegetation selection and configuration in ecological restoration practice. of the mine.

“We also used the method of structural equation models and functional prediction to explore the role of microbial-mediated enzymes in the process of secondary succession and interactions between plants, soil and microbes,” said Chen.

According to the scientist, the activities of several soil enzymes had a significant positive impact on soil carbon, N and P. And microbes have played a positive role in facilitating the cycling of plants and soil substances at every scale. This result suggests the possibility of using industrial enzyme preparations such as urease and catalase to promote litter degradation, improving soil fertility to accelerate the process of ecosystem cycling and succession.

“The study is an extension of our understanding of ecological restoration in surface coal mine dumps, from plant configuration to microbial function, increasing our understanding of plant and enzyme-mediated invasion. microbes in the secondary succession of mining dumps on the Loess Plateau,” Chen pointed out.

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