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An Analysis of Vegetation Restoration on Opencast Oil Shale Mines in Estonia



We compared four types of 30-year-old forest stands growing on spoil of opencast oil shale mines in Estonia. The stand types were: (1) natural stands formed by spontaneous succession, and plantations of (2) Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine), (3) Betula pendula (silver birch), and (4) Alnus glutinosa (European black alder). In all stands we measured properties of the tree layer (species richness, stand density, and volume of growing stock), understory (density and species richness of shrubs and tree saplings), and ground vegetation (aboveground biomass, species richness, and species diversity). The tree layer was most diverse though sparse in the natural stands. Understory species richness per 100-m2 plot was highest in the natural stand, but total stand richness was equal in the natural and alder stands, which were higher than the birch and pine stands. The understory sapling density was lower than 50 saplings/100 m2 in the plantations, while it varied between 50 and 180 saplings/100 m2 in the natural stands. Growing stock volume was the least in natural stands and greatest in birch stands. The aboveground biomass of ground vegetation was highest in alder stands and lowest in the pine stands. We can conclude that spontaneous succession promotes establishment of diverse vegetation. In plantations the establishment of diverse ground vegetation depends on planted tree species.