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Performance of Vegetation in Reclaimed Slopes Affected by Soil Erosion


T. Espigares, email


Soil erosion in reclaimed mines may affect plant colonization and performance, and may compromise restoration success; however, the magnitude of this effect has seldom been quantified. We monitored the dynamics of vegetation (seed bank density, seedling emergence, plant mortality, and seed production) during a growing season (2003–2004) in three constructed slopes with differing past erosion rates. The slopes are located in the Utrillas coalfield in Spain, which experiences a Mediterranean-continental climate. In the most eroded slope, soil water availability was lower—especially in the interrill areas—and seedling emergence rate, plant survival, and seed production were also significantly lower than on the less eroded slopes. We found that vegetation recovery is dramatically constrained when rill erosion rate is 17 t ha−1 yr−1 and plant cover is 30%, but this effect disappears when plant cover is higher than 60%. Soil erosion in constructed slopes appears to inhibit natural plant colonization processes by increasing runoff water loss over the long-term. Thus, when rill erosion networks develop, human intervention would be needed to minimize the loss of water and facilitate vegetation colonization.