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Soil fauna of a reclaimed lignite open-cast mine of the Rhineland: Improvement of soil quality by surface pattern

: Topp, W.; Simon, M.; Kautz, G.; Dworschak, U.; Nicolini, F.; Prückner, S.


Ecological engineering 17 (2001), No.2-3, pp.307-322
ISSN: 0925-8574
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IUCT ( IME) ()
open-cast mine; reclamation; afforestation; soil fauna; microorganism; macronutrients

Reclaimed lignite open-cast mine areas in the Rhineland are covered by a mixture of loess and sand deposits containing organic material that originates from the upper quartary soil which has been taken from the front of the mining path. Consequently, the soil fauna that has established itself on the reclaimed open-cast mine areas may result from the primary succession and also from species that are carried to the dumping mines and are able to survive the dumping process. The reclaimed landscape consists of a regular structural pattern of crests and troughs. The troughs provide appropriate habitats for establishing a rich and diverse fauna with higher densities of almost all animal groups investigated, with enhanced microbial activity and higher values of available macronutrients. In terms of plant growth, the physical and chemical conditions found in the troughs exceeded the conditions found on the crests. From laboratory studies we made the following conclusions: (1) environmental conditions in the troughs were improved not only by erosion, but additionally by the soil fauna that directly enhanced microbial activity and indirectly increased the availability of macronutrients; (2) soil animals improved soil quality by increasing the pH-values, increasing the ammonium-nitrogen content and decreasing the content of aluminium ions; and (3) a multiple-species system is able to improve soil quality more effectively than a single-species system.