Smoke Enhanced Seed Germination for Mine Rehabilitation in the Southwest of Western Australia

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Abstract

Cool smoke treatments were applied to unmined Eucalyptus marginata (jarrah) forest soils, rehabilitated bauxite mine soils, and broadcast seed to determine if enhancement in germination could be effected with a view toward maximizng the establishment of species in bauxite mines in Western Australia.

Forest sites showed a 48-fold increase in total germinants from the soil seed bank when treated with aerosol smoke. Newly returned bauxite mine soils showed a greater than threefold increase in total germinants after the same treatment. There were also significant increases in the number of species germinating in response to the aerosol smoke treatment in both the forest and the mined soils. Similarly, application of smoked water to the soil seed bank in previously mined sites elicited a significant positive germination response, increasing total germinants and species numbers by 56 and 33%, respectively.

Treatment of mixed seed lots with aerosol smoke before broadcast resulted in highly significant improvement in germination when compared to untreated seed. Both total number of germinants, and number of species emerging from mined sites were positively influenced (85% and 34% increases, respectively).

Ten target species were used to determine the relative effectiveness of different methods of smoke treatment on the germination of broadcast seed. Nine of the species involved displayed a promotive effect with at least two of the treatments. Generally, however, aerosol smoking of seed before broadcast proved to be the more effective approach. As a result of these findings, all broadcast seed for use in Alcoa's bauxite mined areas in the southwest of Western Australia is now routinely smoke treated before application.

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