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Keywords:

  • restoration;
  • surface coal mining;
  • mine spoil;
  • organic matter;
  • ectomycorrhizal inoculation;
  • Quercus robur;
  • Laccaria laccata;
  • Hebeloma crustuliniforme;
  • Cortinarius anomalus

Abstract Poor growth of Quercus robur L. (oak) trees has been reported on mine sites where overburden and subsoil have been used in the reinstatement of surface layers. This stunting has been attributed to a lack of macronutrients and to an adverse soil environment for root growth and mycorrhizal development. Growth, mineral nutrition, and ectomycorrhizal colonization of Q. robur seedlings were studied in an experiment carried out under controlled growing conditions in which mine spoil material was enriched with a leaf litter mulch. Enrichment of mine spoil material was found to produce a significant increase in growth and foliar N concentrations of oak seedlings. Inoculation with three taxa of ectomycorrhizal fungi did not benefit seedlings when mine spoil was the only substrate, possibly due to the poor physical properties of the unamended spoil and lack of nutrients. Inoculation with two taxa, Laccaria laccata and Hebeloma crustuliniforme, isolated from 3-year-old trees produced a significant stimulation of growth in the organically enriched treatment, which was believed to be due to greater uptake of mineralized N. However, Cortinarius anomalus isolated from fruit bodies associated with a 15-year-old tree did not increase biomass. The presence of organic matter was found to result in a significant stimulation of mycorrhizal infection by both inoculum and contaminant mycobionts. Recommendations are made for improving the establishment and growth of oak seedlings on reinstated sites.