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Keywords:

  • Banksia woodland, sand extraction, seedbank, rehabilitation, mining, seedling recruitment

Abstract

An analysis of the effects of topsoil handling and storage methods was undertaken to optimize the potential rehabilitation of southwest Western Australian Banksia woodland species present before site disturbance. An increase in the depth of topsoil stripped from the Banksia woodland, from 10 to 30 cm, correlated to decreasing seedling recruitment from the soil seedbank by a factor of three following in situ respreading in an area to be restored. There was no significant difference in total seedling recruitment in situ at two depths of spread, 10 cm and 30 cm. These results concur with an ex situ trial on the effects of depth of seed burial on seedling recruitment that showed most species failed to emerge from depths greater than 2 cm. In situ stockpiling of the woodland topsoil for 1 or 3 years demonstrated a substantial and significant decline in seedling recruitment to 54% and 34% of the recruitment achieved in fresh topsoil, respectively. Stripping and spreading during winter substantially depressed seedling recruitment, compared with autumn operations, as did in situ stockpiling followed by spreading in the wet season, or stockpiling in winter followed by spreading in spring. No loss in total seedling recruitment occurred when replaced topsoil and subsoil were ripped to 80 cm following spreading of topsoil in sites to be restored. Conclusions from this study are that (1) topsoil provides a useful source of seeds for rehabilitation of Banksia woodland communities in the southwest of Western Australia, (2) correct handling of the topsoil, stripped and replaced fresh and dry (autumn direct return) to the maximum depths of 10 cm, can be used to optimize revegetation of species-rich plant communities with this type of seedbank, and (3) ripping of topsoil and subsoil to ease compaction of newly restored soils does not diminish the recruitment potential of the soil seedbank in the replaced topsoil.