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Long term field trials demonstrate sustainable nutrient supply and uptake in rehabilitated bauxite residue

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Phillips, I. R. and Courtney, R. (2022) Long term field trials demonstrate sustainable nutrient supply and uptake in rehabilitated bauxite residue. Science of The Total Environment, 804 . p. 150134. ISSN 0048-9697


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150134

Publisher URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969721052098


Establishing a sustainable vegetation cover is one of the most important steps in progressive rehabilitation and final closure of ore-processing residues and tailings facilities. Sustainable rehabilitation partly depends on establishing and maintaining a supply of plant-available nutrients, but few long term field studies demonstrating the success or failure of rehabilitation of degraded land such as mineral processing tailings have been reported. Bauxite-processing residues are a highly sodic, highly alkaline, nutrient-poor by-product generated from alumina extraction, and pose many challenges for successful rehabilitation. This study investigated long term performance of rehabilitation established on bauxite-processing residue storage areas (RSAs) by comparing the nutrient content of the vegetation cover with nutrient concentrations in the underlying residue sand. Five plant species having diverse physiology were selected from rehabilitation varying in age from 1 to 10 years old; these being: Hardenbergia comptoniana – a vigorous growing legume ground cover/creeper), Acacia cochlearis and A. rostellifera - legume shrubs tolerant of sandy, alkaline conditions, Grevillea crithmifolia - a drought-tolerant proteaceous shrub tolerant of alkaline soil, and Spyridium globulosum - a robust, fast-growing shrub, commonly found on alkaline coastal soils. Gypsum incorporation reduced the pH and soluble aluminium levels in residue sand, but also acted as a long-term source of nutrients for the vegetation cover. Legume species contained more nitrogen than non-legumes (2.5% N and 1.5% N, respectively), and decomposition of surface litter increased organic carbon and total and mineral nitrogen contents of the residue sand over time. Nutrient cycling maintained a supply of macro- and micro- nutrients for the vegetation cover, and 10-year old rehabilitation exhibited characteristics similar to an analogue site. This study highlighted the importance of organic matter accumulation, developing a functional microbial community, and a diverse plant species mix on transforming the residue sand characteristics and encouraging nutrient cycling as key mechanisms for establishing a sustainable vegetation cover and functional ecosystem on residue sand embankments.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Additional Information:Open access
Keywords:Sustainable ecosystem Organic matter Decomposition Mineralisation Nitrogen In-situ remediation
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science > Soil chemistry
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science > Soil and crops. Soil-plant relationships. Soil productivity
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural meteorology. Crops and climate
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Improvement, reclamation, fertilisation, irrigation etc., of lands (Melioration) > Organic farming. Organiculture
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Fertilisers
Live Archive:22 Sep 2021 03:07
Last Modified:22 Sep 2021 03:07

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