Surface mining for coal has contributed to widespread deforestation and soil loss in coal mining regions around the world, and particularly in Appalachia, USA. Mined land reforestation is of interest in this and other regions where forests are the dominant pre-mining land use. This study evaluated mine soil development on surface-mined sites reforested according to the Forestry Reclamation Approach, representing a chronosequence of time ranging from 0 to 19 years after reclamation. Soils were sampled in depth increments to 50 cm and analyzed for a suite of soil physical and chemical characteristics. Overall, soil fines (silt + clay) tended to increase over time since reclamation (17% silt at year 0 increasing to 35% at year 11; 3.2% clay at year 0 increasing to 5.7% at year 14) while concentrations of metals (e.g., Al, Mg, Mn, Na) demonstrated varied relationships with time since reclamation. Concentrations of organic carbon (OC) tended to increase with time (0.9% OC at year 0 increasing to 2.3% at year 14), and were most enriched in near-surface soils. Some soil characteristics (e.g., Na, OC, Ca) demonstrated patterns of increasing similarity to the forest control, while others were distinct from the forest control throughout the chronosequence (e.g., Al, clay, Mn, gravel). Future surveys of these soils over time will elucidate longer-term patterns in soil development, and better characterize the time scales over which these soils might be expected to approximate forest soil conditions.
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This research was funded by the USDI Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s Applied Science Program (Grant #S15AC20026). APC was supported by Sena’s Storkan-Hanes-McCaslin Award and Barton’s general funds.
Sena, Kenton L.; Yeager, Kevin M.; Barton, Christopher D.; Lhotka, John M.; Bond, William E.; and Schindler, Kimberly J., "Development of Mine Soils in a Chronosequence of Forestry-Reclaimed Sites in Eastern Kentucky" (2021). Lewis Honors College Faculty Publications. 2.