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Keywords:

  • fertilizer;
  • jarrah forest;
  • rehabilitation;
  • seeding;
  • species richness;
  • understorey

Abstract

Alcoa World Alumina Australia has been rehabilitating bauxite mines in the jarrah forest of Western Australia for more than 35 years. An experiment was established in 1988 using three different seed treatments (legume and small understorey mix, small understorey mix only, and no seed) and two fertilizer treatments (N and P, and P only). The objectives of this study were to (1) document vegetation changes in the first 14 years after bauxite mining; (2) assess whether the vegetation is becoming more similar to the unmined forest; and (3) gain a better understanding of successional processes. Seed treatments significantly affected 13 of the 14 measured vegetation characteristics. Native species richness was higher in seeded than in unseeded sites at 1, 2, and 5 years of age, whereas diversity and evenness were generally higher at all assessment ages. Exotic species density was higher in unseeded than in seeded sites from 5 years onward, whereas richness was higher from 8 years onward. Nitrogen fertilizer significantly increased exotic species richness, density, and cover. Ephemerals dominated plant density in all rehabilitation treatments over time, whereas seeder species dominated cover. In contrast, resprouting species dominated density and cover in the unmined forest. Orchids were the only species that were not present in the first year in rehabilitated sites but increased in abundance over time. Vegetation composition in rehabilitated areas did not become more similar to the unmined forest during the 14 years since seeding, instead strongly reflected the initial species mix. Rehabilitated bauxite mines appear to follow the initial floristic composition model of succession.