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Bryophyte communities as biomonitors of environmental factors in the Goujiang karst bauxite, southwestern China

Wang, Shiqiang, Zhang, Zhaohui, Wang, Zhihui
The Science of the total environment 2015 v.538 pp. 270-278
Bryophyta, altitude, asexual reproduction, bauxite, copper, correspondence analysis, heavy metals, human health, iron, karsts, mining, monitoring, mosses and liverworts, nickel, pioneer species, plant communities, roots, soil erosion, soil pollution, vegetation, zinc, China
Bauxite mining on karst results in several ecological and environmental issues including heavy metal pollution, soil erosion and the destruction of vegetation. In turn, these may affect the distribution of plant communities and endanger human health. In general, bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) are pioneer plants, lacking roots, vascular systems and well-developed cuticles. Due to their high sensitivity to the environment, they are often used to monitor air and soil pollution. A total of 25 bryophyte taxa from 19 genera and 9 families were recorded on Goujiang karst bauxite near the city of Zunyi in the Guizhou Province of southwestern China. Eleven principal bryophyte communities were identified, most of which consisted of only one species (monospecific assemblage), although the proportion of these single-species communities differed at the six locations. The levels of heavy metals also differed in soil from the six locations: iron, 8748.9–10,023μg/g; zinc, 146.7–240.9μg/g; copper, 24.6–60.4μg/g; and nickel, 35.6–95.1μg/g. A canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) of the bryophyte communities and environmental variables revealed the effect of gradient (slope), altitude and heavy metals in the soil on the distribution of the principal bryophyte communities. More than 36% of bryophyte taxa identified reproduced asexually by gemmae, as gemmiferous bryophyte communities tolerate substrates with high levels of heavy metals more readily than non-gemmiferous communities do. The distribution of heavy metals in the soil is reflected in the distribution of the bryophyte communities. The distribution characteristics of the principal bryophyte communities and of the gemmiferous bryophyte communities are useful in monitoring heavy metal pollution in karst bauxite.