Natural Revegetation of a Boreal Gold Mine Tailings Pond


Address correspondence to J. H. Markham, email


Understanding the natural revegetation of forests disturbed by the dumping of mine wastes is vital for the success of reclamation strategies. The Gunnar gold mine tailings pond in southeast Manitoba has remained largely unvegetated since the mine was closed in 1942, with limited vegetation developed on one side of the pond. We examined the natural Picea mariana/Larix laricina forest that has developed on the pond to determine how the plant community develops and what changes in the tailings are associated with this development. Vegetation sampled along transects showed a consistent pattern of succession from Equisetum palustre to Salix spp., and Populus balsamifera, to Larix laricina and finally to P. mariana. Larix laricina and P. mariana are moving into the site at the rate of 1.5 m per year with L. laricina invading 4 years ahead of P. mariana. Both tree species show a similar pattern of annual growth, showing positive correlations with spring precipitation, a pattern also occurring on L. laricina growing on a nearby site. The establishment of E. palustre was accompanied by initially rapid decreases in compaction and conductivity of the tailings, and an increase in inorganic nitrogen. Surface organic matter depth, coarse organic matter mass, and soil organic carbon increased at a constant rate, whereas subsurface coarse organic matter had an initial rapid increase followed by a gradual increase. As fern allies (and specifically members of the Equisetaceae family) have a number of properties that facilitate succession on mine wastes, their use should be explored further.