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Effects of Re-vegetation on Herbaceous Species Composition and Biological Soil Crusts Development in a Coal Mine Dumping Site

Zhao, Yang, Zhang, Peng, Hu, Yigang, Huang, Lei
Environmental management 2016 v.57 no.2 pp. 298-307
Algae, coal, ecological restoration, ecosystems, herbaceous plants, planting, shrubs, soil crusts, species diversity, vegetation types, woody plants, China
Despite the critical roles of plant species’ diversity and biological soil crusts (BSCs) in arid and semi-arid ecosystems, the restoration of the diversity of herbaceous species and BSCs are rarely discussed during the process of vegetation restoration of anthropogenically damaged areas in these regions. In this study, the herbaceous plant species composition, along with the BSCs coverage and thicknesses, was investigated at six different re-vegetation type sites, and the natural vegetation site of the Heidaigou open pit coal mine in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was used as a reference. The highest total species richness (16), as well as the species richness (4.4), occurred in the Tree and Herbaceous vegetation type site. The species composition similarities between the restored sites and the reference site were shown to be very low, and ranged from 0.09 to 0.42. Also, among the restored sites, the similarities of the species were fairly high and similar, and ranged from 0.45 to 0.93. The density and height of the re-vegetated woody plants were significantly correlated with the indexes of the diversity of the species. The Shrub vegetation type site showed the greatest total coverage (80 %) of BSCs and algae crust coverage (48 %). The Shrub and Herbaceous type had the greatest thicknesses of BSCs, with as much as 3.06 mm observed, which was followed by 2.64 mm for the Shrub type. There was a significant correlation observed between the coverage of the total BSCs, and the total vegetation and herbaceous vegetation coverage, as well as between the algae crust coverage and the herbaceous vegetation coverage. It has been suggested that the re-vegetated dwarf woody plant species (such as shrubs and semi-shrubs) should be chosen for the optimal methods of the restoration of herbaceous species diversity at dumping sites, and these should be planted with low density. Furthermore, the effects of vegetation coverage on the colonization and development the BSCs should be considered in order to reconstruct the vegetation in disturbed environments, such as mine dumpsites in arid areas.