An Evaluation of Reclamation Success on Idaho's Phosphate Mines
Article first published online: 7 APR 2006
Volume 2, Issue 1, pages 4–16, March 1994
How to Cite
Chambers, J. C., Brown, R. W. and Williams, B. D. (1994), An Evaluation of Reclamation Success on Idaho's Phosphate Mines. Restoration Ecology, 2: 4–16. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.1994.tb00037.x
- Issue published online: 7 APR 2006
- Article first published online: 7 APR 2006
To evaluate reclamation success on the Wooley Valley phosphate mine in southeastern Idaho, we compared vegetation structure and soil physical, chemical, and elemental properties of several different reclamation treatments with those of a nearby reference area (a native Artemisia tridentata vaseyana/Festuca idahoensis association) after 14 years. Vegetation data had been collected four years after reclamation, and we were able to compare differences in biomass and species composition between dates on the reclaimed area. Four years after reclamation there were no differences in total biomass between topsoil or spoil or between seed only, seed + mulch, or control treatments on the different soil types. Most treatments were dominated by seeded perennial grasses. Fourteen years after reclamation there were no differences in biomass or cover between spoil and topsoil plots, but on spoil plots the seeded and mulched treatment had higher total biomass and vegetation cover than on control or seed-only treatments. The seeded perennial legume Medicago sativa was codominant with the seeded forage grasses on all of the treatments. High initial fertilization rates probably facilitated the early establishment and dominance of the forage grasses; once nutrient levels, especially nitrogen, began to decline, the legume increased in abundance. Similarity between the reclaimed area and the reference or native area was low. Reclaimed treatments had higher biomass but lower species richness. The topsoil and spoil plots had similar soil texture, bulk density, pH, cation exchange capacity, electrical conductivity, and phosphorus. Differences in organic carbon, total nitrogen, carbon: nitrogen ratios, and available moisture were related more to treatments than to soil type. High biomass and, thus, litter input on the seed + mulch treatment on spoil plots resulted in both higher OC and TN than any on other soil/treatment combination. The reclaimed area had lower OC, TN, and available moisture than did the reference area on all but seed + mulch spoil plots. Bulk density was higher on reclaimed plots. The long-term differences observed between the reclaimed and reference areas parallel those obtained for other western reclamation sites. Although successional trajectories depend on the attribute measured, similarity to native reference areas depends on the initial reclamation methods. We discuss reclamation methods that would increase the structural and functional similarity of reclaimed and reference areas on the Wooley Valley phosphate mine.