Implications of Seedling Emergence to Site Restoration following Bauxite Mining in Western Australia



Seedling emergence of 12 selected northern jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata Donn ex Smith) forest species were investigated to assist Alcoa of Australia Ltd. in maximizing the establishment of topsoil species in rehabilitated bauxite mining sites. The species, which encompassed a range of seed weights (0.024 mg to 87 mg), plant families, seed-storage types, life forms, and germination requirements, were placed on the soil surface and at depths of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 15 cm under controlled conditions in a glasshouse. Ability to emerge from deep burial was found to depend on seed size for species that annually release their seed to the topsoil but not for species that store their seed on the plant. All selected species were capable of emerging from 2 cm depth of burial, but eight of the 12 species were either unable to emerge from 5 cm or showed a significant reduction in emergence from 5 cm depth of burial compared to optimally buried seed. This group included two small-seeded species, Stylidium calcaratum and Chamaescilla corymbosa; the major forest dominant, Eucalyptus marginata; the serotinous canopy-borne seed of Hakea amplexicaulis; and the wind-dispersed seed of Xanthorrhoea gracilis. A few seeds of the legume species Kennedia coccinea, Acacia pulchella, and Bossiaea aquifolium established seedlings from depths of 15 cm. Currently, Alcoa removes the upper 15 cm of topsoil separately from the underlying soil prior to the commencement of mining. This topsoil is respread at a similar depth following mining as part of the rehabilitation procedure. It is recommended that Alcoa continue to strip topsoil to a depth of 15 cm but investigate the option of re-spreading topsoil onto rehabilitated pits at a shallower depth to maximize establishment via the soil seed bank.