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Article

Successful Ecological Regeneration of Opencast Coal Mine Spoils through Forestation: From Cradle to Grove

1
Cradle for Nature (NGO), cradlefornature.org, Witney OX29 8HT, UK
2
Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford OX3 0BP, UK
3
School of Architecture, Built and Natural Environments, University of Wales Trinity St David’s, Swansea SA1 8EW, UK
4
Institute of Soil Science, Agrotechnology and Plant Protection “N. Poushkarov-Sofia”, 1080 Sofia, Bulgaria
5
Department of Soil Science, University of Forestry, 1797 Sofia, Bulgaria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Minerals 2020, 10(5), 461; https://doi.org/10.3390/min10050461
Received: 15 April 2020 / Revised: 6 May 2020 / Accepted: 15 May 2020 / Published: 20 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Use of Abandoned Mines)
The reclamation of surface (opencast) coal mines is not always successful; there remains a legacy of degraded land that burdens local communities. This article evaluates a community-oriented, low-cost means of geoecological regeneration, the “Cradle for Nature” strategy, which uses mosaic tree planting to foster positive natural ecological processes. Results show that, while the autocompaction of minestones quickly raises soil densities to levels hostile to plant growth, forestation helps moderate soil densities. Weathering concentrates metals in minestones, but 14 years of forestation reduced the loadings of five metals by 35–52%. Twenty years of forestation doubled soil organic carbon to >7%; increased bacilli from 7% to 46%; actinomycetes from 10% to 26%; and soil microbe counts 12–15 times, especially in tree plantings treated with fertiliser. Soils under trees also supported a significantly greater earthworm biomass than under grass but, while open-canopy plantings had increased ground flora biodiversity, closed-canopy plantings had lower diversity and biomass. Following closure to grazing, ground biomass increased sevenfold. Young trees act as bird perches and significantly increase seed fall. Small mammal biomass and biodiversity increases after tree planting and higher predators appear. Varteg’s constructed forest provides an effective “cradle” for an emergent geoecological system and its habitat mosaic maximises biodiversity. View Full-Text
Keywords: land reclamation; opencast/surface coal mining; ecological regeneration; South Wales Coalfield; Cradle for Nature land reclamation; opencast/surface coal mining; ecological regeneration; South Wales Coalfield; Cradle for Nature
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  • Externally hosted supplementary file 1
    Link: http://cradlefornature.org.uk
    Description: The website for the 'Cradle for Nature' citizen science project.
MDPI and ACS Style

Haigh, M.; Woodruffe, P.; D’Aucourt, M.; Alun, E.; Wilding, G.; Fitzpatrick, S.; Filcheva, E.; Noustorova, M. Successful Ecological Regeneration of Opencast Coal Mine Spoils through Forestation: From Cradle to Grove. Minerals 2020, 10, 461. https://doi.org/10.3390/min10050461

AMA Style

Haigh M, Woodruffe P, D’Aucourt M, Alun E, Wilding G, Fitzpatrick S, Filcheva E, Noustorova M. Successful Ecological Regeneration of Opencast Coal Mine Spoils through Forestation: From Cradle to Grove. Minerals. 2020; 10(5):461. https://doi.org/10.3390/min10050461

Chicago/Turabian Style

Haigh, Martin; Woodruffe, Patricia; D’Aucourt, Margaret; Alun, Elanor; Wilding, Gillian; Fitzpatrick, Susan; Filcheva, Ekaterina; Noustorova, Maya. 2020. "Successful Ecological Regeneration of Opencast Coal Mine Spoils through Forestation: From Cradle to Grove" Minerals 10, no. 5: 461. https://doi.org/10.3390/min10050461

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