Long-term passive restoration following fluvial deposition of sulphidic copper tailings: nature filters out the solutions

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016 Jul;23(14):13672-80. doi: 10.1007/s11356-015-5205-0. Epub 2015 Aug 25.


Despite the growing popularity of ecological restoration approach, data on primary succession on toxic post-mining substrates, under site environmental conditions which considerably differ from the surrounding environment, are still scarce. Here, we studied the spontaneous vegetation development on an unusual locality created by long-term and large-scale fluvial deposition of sulphidic tailings from a copper mine in a pronouncedly xerothermic, calcareous surrounding. We performed multivariate analyses of soil samples (20 physical and chemical parameters) and vegetation samples (floristic and structural parameters in three types of occurring forests), collected along the pollution gradients throughout the affected floodplain. The nature can cope with two types of imposed constraints: (a) excessive Cu concentrations and (b) very low pH, combined with nutrient deficiency. The former will still allow convergence to the original vegetation, while the latter will result in novel, depauperate assemblages of species typical for cooler and moister climate. Our results for the first time demonstrate that with the increasing severity of environmental filtering, the relative importance of the surrounding vegetation for primary succession strongly decreases.

Keywords: Alluvial forests; Cu toxicity; Ecological restoration; Environmental filtering; Novel ecosystem; Nutrient deficiency; Post-mining land; Primary vegetation succession; Soil acidity; Spontaneous restoration.

MeSH terms

  • Copper / analysis*
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Copper / isolation & purification
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / methods*
  • Filtration
  • Forests
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mining
  • Plant Development
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / isolation & purification
  • Sulfides / chemistry*


  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Sulfides
  • Copper