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Keywords:

  • Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii;
  • heavy metals;
  • land reclamation;
  • liming;
  • physical stress;
  • pollution stress;
  • reforestation;
  • shelter;
  • stress amelioration

Abstract

Denuded landscapes adjacent to big polluters represent an extremely harsh environment for plants due to a unique combination of soil toxicity and physical stress. In a 5-year experiment we tested whether survival and performance of seedlings of Mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) planted in two barren sites around the nickel–copper smelter at Monchegorsk, northwestern Russia, can be enhanced by physical sheltering and how large the supposed benefits to survival and performance are in relation to liming. Seedling performance was assessed by measuring growth parameters and chlorophyll fluorescence. Physical sheltering was found to be beneficial in some conditions: when soil characteristics were not so harsh as to cause 100% mortality, sheltering increased both survival and performance of birch seedlings. Although the benefits of liming on seedling performance and survival were stronger than the benefits of sheltering, sheltering may still have its uses in restoration when large-scale liming is not applicable, for example, when the ecological side effects of liming are to be avoided.