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Heliyon
Volume 8 (2), 2022, e08838

Effects of compost, biochar and ash mixed in till soil cover of mine tailings on plant growth and bioaccumulation of elements: A growing test in a greenhouse

Juha Heiskanena, Hanna Ruhanenb, Marleena Hagnerc,d

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Soil Ecosystems, Juntintie 154, FI-77600 Suonenjoki, Finland.

Abstract

Mine closures necessitate vegetation restoration to cover tailings fields and reduce environmental risks. Sole use of forest soil as growth medium provides only low fertility and slow plant growth especially in the harsh boreal climate conditions. This preliminary study examines the feasibility of recyclable waste materials added to forest till soil for improving vegetation success on reclaimed mine tailings. One compost type, three biochar types (Bc1–3) and two ash types (Ash1-2) were studied for physical and chemical properties as well as their effects on the growth and element accumulation of timothy (Phleum pratense L.), white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) during one growing period in a greenhouse. Oxidized surface tailings soil and Ash2 were the finest media components while compost and Ash1 were the coarsest. Tailings soil also had the highest salt contents and electrical conductivity, while in till soil they were at the lowest levels. Timothy and white clover germinated well in moist pure tailings soil but grew poorest in it. White clover grew poorly also in pure till soil. Best biomass growth was in the mixture of till, compost and Bc2 (from sewage sludge and woodchips). Planted pine seedlings grew relatively well in all media during the first growing season but Ash1 (from wood and peat) tended to promote height growth and pure till soil root biomass. In media containing Ash1, pine tissues accumulated B, Ca, Mg, K, Na and S. Elevated As content in tailings soil accumulated in plant shoot tissues slightly; only in the old needles of pine were As levels elevated. The results suggest that till and tailings media with compost added as a nitrogen source can promote adequate plant growth during initial growing seasons. Suitable types of biochar and ash amendments can further expedite plant establishment.

Keywords: Land reclamation, Mine closure, Recyclates, Reforestation, Vegetation restoration.

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