Effect of Reclamation Practices on Soil Water Quality

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Amir Hass , Tigist Geberehiwot , Robert Cantrell , Jeff Skousen

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Proper reclamation of surface mined lands is vital for adequate restoration of ecosystem services. To that end, a 5-step reclamation process – The Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) – was developed for reforestation of surface mined areas in the Appalachian Region, USA, in the early 2000’s. FRA practices are easy to implement and result in significant improvement to plant establishment and growth. While these effects have been extensively studied, the practices effect on soil biogeochemical processes and soil water quality are not well documented. We present results from a 3-year monitoring study of FRA sites (WV, USA) instrumented with soil water sampling devices 12 years after reclamation. The study site established in 2005 and include two 2.8-ha 1.5 m deep plots constructed using only Brown (oxidized) or Gray (reduced) sandstone overburden material. Each plot was split into compacted (overpass by D-10 caterpillar dozer) and non-compacted material placement subplots. Each plot, along with adjacent undisturbed forest, were instrumented with three shallow observation wells (1-m deep) each, randomly placed within the plot area. Water samples were collected weekly, filtered on-site through 0.45µm filter, split into three subsamples that were capped with minimal headspace and delivered on ice to the lab where they were kept refrigerated prior to next-day analysis for ionic composition, total alkalinity, and dissolved organic carbon. A field acidified sub-sample was stored for metal analysis. YSI Pro Plus multiparameter meter was used for in situ measurement of dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, total dissolved solids (TDS), and redox potential in the wells prior to water sample collection. An increase in TDS was found when redox potential decreased (which itself was inversely related to pH). This increase in TDS under anoxic conditions was surprising and improved our understanding of the role of redox-promoted dissolution in these, otherwise, upland, supposedly well-drained soils. Wide temporal fluctuation in all measured parameters was recorded and are attributed to the poor ability of the newly constructed soil to properly buffer changes in moisture, pH, and redoxpotential. The results are discussed in the context of soil development, resiliency, and vulnerability amid expected extreme weather events.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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