Monitoring the dynamics of restoring the biological soil crusts after acidic water contamination from the mining industry

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Eli Zaady, Tal Kerem , Hiam Abu-Glion , Shimshon Shuker

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Biological soil crust (biocrust) covers the surface of arid regions around the world. Biocrusts are formed as a result of interactions between photosynthetic organisms and soil particles. The ability of these organisms to grow in dry areas allows them to populate the soil surface. They serve as an indicator of ecosystem health and environmental engineers, in low-rainwater systems, by stabilizing the soil surface, and soil enrichment with nutrients. In summer 2017, 150,000 m3 of process water, a byproduct of the manufacture of phosphorus fertilizers, flowed into the Ashalim Stream Nature Reserve. The research objectives were to examine the effects of acid water pollution on biocrusts in the Ashalim River, at the two different research sites along the riverbed, and the rehabilitation treatments. Two damaged sites were selected, in the upper sandy part and the alluvial part of the stream. Each site carries out five rehabilitation treatments. A series of physical, chemical, and biological tests of the biocrusts were performed. In all aspects, it was realized that the biocrusts were experiencing significant damage, with the cyanobacterial population as well as the change in the microbial populations. The area where the biocrusts heavily damaged was the sandy part of the Ashalim River. The best treatment was the addition of enriched organic matter led to the formation of aggregates in the sandy soil. The above treatment may encourage microbial populations by supplementing with nutrients and thus the restoration process.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program