Natural Processes for the Restoration of Drastically Disturbed Sites

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David Polster

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Natural processes have been ‘restoring’ disturbed sites (landslides, volcanic eruptions, shoreline erosion, etc.) for millions of years. By understanding how these natural systems operate they can be applied to sites humans disturb (mines, industrial developments, etc.). Natural systems initiate recovery using pioneer species such as Willows (Salix spp.), Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera L.) or Alder (Alnus spp.). The seeds of these species are designed to travel long distances and use commonly occurring conditions to get established. Balsam Poplar and Willows have light fluffy seeds that at some times of the year look like snow. They land on puddles or other water bodies and are blown to the wet mud at the edges of the puddle or on the shore of the waterbody where they germinate and grow. By creating these conditions on a mine site these species can be encouraged to establish on sites that being reclaimed. The cost of these treatments are a fraction of traditional reclamation costs and because the resulting vegetation is appropriate to the area and the site where it establishes, natural processes can provide effective strategies for the reclamation of mining disturbances. Examples in the presentation are drawn from the author’s field experience.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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