Question: Does the course of succession on a coal mine restored by hydroseeding converge with a reference community in terms of species composition and vegetation structure? What is the rate of succession on restored areas? How does the balance between local colonization and extinction rates change during succession? Which species group (native or hydroseeded) determines the successional process?
Location: Large reclaimed coal mine in the north of Palencia province, northern Spain (42°50′N, 4°38′W).
Methods: Between 2004 and 2009 we monitored annually vascular plant species cover in nine permanent plots (20 m2 each) at a restored mine; these plots were structured to account for site aspect (north, south and flat). Three identical permanent plots were established in the surrounding reference community and monitored in 2004 and 2009. We used detrended correspondence analysis to assess successional trends and rates of succession, generalized linear mixed models to derive patterns of vegetation structural changes and turnover through time, and Huisman–Olff–Fresco modelling to illustrate response of individual species through time.
Results: The three restored mine areas exhibited a successional trend towards the reference community through time, although speed of convergence differed. However, after 6 years the restored sites had diverged considerably and this was greater than the dissimilarity reduction with respect to the reference community. Richness, diversity and native species cover increased linearly through time, whereas hydroseeded species cover decreased. Success of hydroseeded species initially differed in the three areas, and this was negatively related with native species colonization rates. Response patterns through time of ten hydroseeded and 20 most common native species are described.
Conclusions: Vegetation structural parameters rapidly converged with the reference community, whereas compositional convergence needed much longer. At the same time, successional composition trajectories and rates were related to site properties (here aspect).