Herbaceous vegetation productivity, persistence, and metals uptake on a biosolids-amended mine soil

J Environ Qual. 2005 Sep 8;34(5):1811-9. doi: 10.2134/jeq2004.0329. Print Sep-Oct 2005.


The selection of plant species is critical for the successful establishment and long-term maintenance of vegetation on reclaimed surface mined soils. A study was conducted to assess the capability of 16 forage grass and legume species in monocultures and mixes to establish and thrive on a reclaimed Appalachian surface mine amended with biosolids. The 0.15-ha coarse-textured, rocky, non-acid forming mined site was prepared for planting by grading to a 2% slope and amending sandstone overburden materials with a mixture of composted and dewatered, anaerobically digested biosolids at a rate of 368 Mg ha(-1) (dry weight). Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), caucasian bluestem (Bothriochloa caucasia L.), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.), ladino clover (Trifolium repens L.), birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.), crownvetch (Coronilla varia L.), alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), common sericea lespedeza and AULotan sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata L.), tall fescue-ladino clover, tall fescue-alfalfa, orchardgrass-birdsfoot trefoil, switchgrass-AULotan, and an herbaceous species mix intended for planting on reforested sites consisting of foxtail millet [Setaria italica (L.) Beauv.], perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), redtop (Agrostis alba L.), kobe lespedeza (Kummerowia striata L.), appalow lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata L.), and birdsfoot trefoil were established between spring 1990 and 1991. Vegetative biomass and/or persistence were assessed in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002. The high rate of biosolids applied provided favorable soil chemical properties but could not overcome physical property limitations due to shallow undeveloped soil perched atop a compacted soil layer at 25 cm depth. The plant species whose persistence and biomass production were the greatest after a decade or more of establishment (i.e., switchgrass, sericea lespedeza, reed canarygrass, tall fescue, and crownvetch) shared the physiological and reproductive characteristics of low fertility requirements, drought and moisture tolerance, and propagation by rhizome and/or stolons. Of these five species, two (tall fescue and sericea lespedeza) are or have been seeded commonly on Appalachian coal surface mines, and often dominate abandoned pasture sites. Despite the high rates of heavy metal-bearing biosolids applied to the soil, plant uptake of Cd, Cu, Ni, and Zn were well within critical concentrations more than a decade after establishment of the vegetation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomass
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Manure
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / pharmacokinetics*
  • Mining*
  • Plant Development*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Species Specificity
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Virginia


  • Manure
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants