Effects of Vegetation Pattern and Spontaneous Succession on Remediation of Potential Toxic Metal-Polluted Soil in Mine Dumps
School of Environment Science and Spatial Informatics, China University of Mining and Technology, Xuzhou 221008, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 397; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020397
Received: 14 November 2018 / Revised: 28 December 2018 / Accepted: 8 January 2019 / Published: 14 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Management of Heavy Metals)
The ecological rehabilitation of potential toxic metal-contaminated soils in sites disturbed by mining has been a great challenge in recent decades. Phytoremediation is one of the most widely promoted renovation methods due to its environmental friendliness and low cost. However, there is a lack of in situ investigation on the influence of vegetation pattern and spontaneous succession on the rehabilitation of potential toxic metal-polluted soil. To clarify how the vegetation pattern in the early stage of restoration and the spontaneous succession influence the remediation of the soil, we investigated a metal mining dump in Sichuan, China, by field investigation and laboratory analysis. We determined the plant growth, soil fertility, and the capacity of potential toxic metals (PTMs) in metal mining soil under different initial vegetation patterns for different years to understand the role of vegetation pattern and spontaneous succession in PTM pollution phytoremediation projects. The results show that: (1) Phytoremediation with a simple initial vegetation pattern (RP rehabilitative plant pattern) which involves two rehabilitation plants, Agave sisalana and Neyraudia reynaudiana, achieves a PTM pollution index that is 9.28% lower than that obtained with the complex vegetation pattern (RP&LP rehabilitation plants mixed with local plants pattern), 21.86% lower in the soil fertility index, and 73.69% lower in the biodiversity index; (2) The phytoremediation with the 10-year RP&LP pattern was associated with a PTM pollution index that was 4.04% higher than that for the 17-year RP&LP pattern, a soil fertility index that was 4.48% lower, and a biodiversity index that was 12.49% lower. During the process of vegetation succession, if accumulator plants face inhibition of growth or retreat, the reclamation rate will decrease. The vegetation patterns influence the effect of phytoremediation. Spontaneous vegetation succession will cause the phytoremediation process to deviate from the intended target. Therefore, according to the goal of vegetation restoration, choosing a suitable vegetation pattern is the main premise to ensure the effect of phytoremediation. The indispensable manipulation of succession is significant during the succession series, and more attention should be paid to the rehabilitative plants to ensure the stable effect of reclamation. The results obtained in this study could provide a guideline for the in situ remediation of PTM-polluted soil in China.