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Synthesis: Is Alcoa Successfully Restoring a Jarrah Forest Ecosystem after Bauxite Mining in Western Australia?

Authors

  • John M. Koch,

    Corresponding author
    1. Alcoa World Alumina Australia, Huntly Mine, PO Box 172, Pinjarra, Western Australia 6208, Australia
      Address Correspondence to J. M. Koch, email john.koch@alcoa.com.au
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  • Richard J. Hobbs

    1. School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia
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  • Conflict of Interest Statement: J. M. Koch is a paid employee of Alcoa. R. J. Hobbs receives research funding from the Australian Research Council. Some of this funding comes from a linkage project which involves financial and research contribution from Alcoa.

Address Correspondence to J. M. Koch, email john.koch@alcoa.com.au

Abstract

A range of reviews and technical reports have been presented in this volume that cover many components of the jarrah forest ecosystem and its restoration after bauxite mining in Western Australia. This synthesis reviews these papers and attempts to decide if the jarrah forest ecosystem has been restored. All ecosystem functions, including nutrient cycling and nutrient accumulation, appear to be successful or developing on an appropriate trajectory. Structural attributes of the restored vegetation are controlled by the floristic composition and growth of the vegetation and are developing favorably with time. Biodiversity measures show some deficiencies, which should be solved by time (e.g., lack of old rotting wood and tree hollows for fauna) or are the subject of ongoing research and development (e.g., imbalance of seeder/resprouter plant species). Various ways of measuring the success of Alcoa’s restoration are discussed and a numerical scorecard is presented. The overall scores were calculated as between 90 and 92% depending on the input parameters used. Such scores seem to agree with the overall subjective impression that Alcoa’s mine restoration is largely successful at restoring the jarrah forest ecosystem. A single measure of ecosystem restoration success, which acts as a surrogate for all others, does not exist, but the use of two such measures, soil organic carbon levels and floristic similarity, would adequately integrate all ecosystem components and could be used to determine the level of ecosystem restoration in this region.

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