The economic importance of mining in the Indian Desert is second only to agriculture. Land disturbed by mining, however, has only recently been the focus of rehabilitation efforts. This research assesses the success of rehabilitation plans used to revegetate gypsum mine spoils within the environmental constraints of the north-west Indian hot-desert ecosystem. The rehabilitation plan first examined both mined and unmined areas and established assessments of existing vegetative cover and the quality of native soils and mine spoils. Tests were made on the effect of the use, and conservation, of available water through rainwater harvesting, amendment application (for physical and chemical spoil modification), plant establishment protocols, and the selection of appropriate germ plasm. Our results show that the resulting vegetative cover is capable of perpetuating itself under natural conditions while concurrently meeting the needs of farmers. Although the mine spoils are deficient in organic matter and phosphorus, they possess adequate amounts of all other nutrients. Total boron concentrations (>5.0 mg kg-1) in both the topsail and mine spoil indicate potentially phytotoxic conditions. Electrical conductance of mine spoil is 6-10 times higher than for topsail with a near-neutral pH. Populations of spoil fungi, Azotobactor, and nitrifying bacteria are low. The soil moisture storage in rainwater harvesting plots increased by 8% over the control and 48% over the unmined area. As a result of rehabilitation efforts, mine spoils show a steady buildup in organic carbon, and P and K due to the decomposition of farmyard manure and the contribution of nitrogen fixation by the established leguminous plant species. The rehabilitation protocol used at the site appears to have been successful. Following revegetation of the area with a mixture of trees, shrubs, and grasses, native implanted species have become established. Species diversity, measured in terms of species richness, increased after one year and then gradually declined over time; the decline was the result of the loss of annual species. The study not only develops methods of gypsum mine land rehabilitation but also helps in understanding processes of rehabilitation success in arid regions and emphasizes the importance of long-term monitoring of rehabilitation success. Copyright ?? 2001 Taylor & Francis.
Additional Publication Details
Rehabilitation of gypsum-mined lands in the Indian desert