The Flora and Invertebrate Fauna of Abandoned Limestone Quarries in Derbyshire, United Kingdom

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Abstract

Abandoned limestone quarries are hostile environments for plant and invertebrate colonization and establishment. The length of time taken for successful establishment by natural processes may be unacceptable for reclamation purposes; several techniques are used to reduce the time scales involved. A new technique, restoration blasting, aims to replicate natural daleside landforms by selective blasting of modern production quarry faces. We compare the flora and invertebrate fauna of restoration-blasted sites, hydro-seeded with daleside species, with naturally regenerating disused quarries and a natural daleside. Restoration-blasted sites were found to have less plant cover, more bare ground, fewer orders of invertebrates, and generally fewer animals within each order than the other two types of site. The disused quarries tended to have intermediate characteristics between the restoration-blasted sites and the natural daleside. The age of the site may be important in determining the plants and invertebrates occurring there. This may be related to the time available for establishment or a greater degree of settlement or stability within the biotic and abiotic components of the site. Although most of the results indicate that time since establishment may be important, some variations occur. In particular, the development of vegetation cover in areas grazed by rabbits is problematic. These results are important in the assessment of successful reclamation because the invertebrate fauna may contribute greatly to the overall system. Both plant and animal communities appear to be establishing well on the sites reclaimed by restoration blasting. Further monitoring will identify the speed at which such environments achieve the desired aim of replicating daleside communities and the communities best able to be sustained following this technique.

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