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Subodh Kumar Maiti, editor. 2013. Springer, 346 pages, €137.75 (hardcover). ISBN 978–81–322–0850–1. Also available as Ebook.

Coal mining is one of the most severe disturbances in terrestrial ecosystems. It causes large-scale deforestation and land degradation with complete loss of topsoil. Restoration of coalmine degraded lands is in urgent need. A plethora of research and review papers on mining and its restoration are available in the literature. But, to my knowledge, a book specifically on coalmine degraded lands is lacking.

In Ecorestoration of the Coalmine Degraded Lands, Subodh Kumar Maiti addresses the status, policies, and methods of restoration of coalmine degraded lands and has tried to fill a significant gap in the science of restoration ecology. The 22 chapters of this book are organized into two parts. The 17 chapters of Part I present an overview of coal mining in India, functioning of an ecosystem, overburden and topsoil management, methods of plantation on mined lands, feasibility of biofertilizers (vesicular arbuscular mycorrhyza [VAM]) for ecorestoration, a few case studies and, finally, wildlife conservation acts, environment impact assessment, and mine closure. Chapter 1 addresses the importance and progress of coal mining in India, definitions of ecological restoration and restoration ecology, and the legal and statutory framework for ecorestoration. Chapter 2 provides an overview of general fundamentals of ecology, independent of its applications. Chapter 3 provides detailed information about management of overburden/mine spoil excavated during coal extraction. This chapter illustrates the effects of dump slope on vegetation establishment, sedimentation, run off and soil erosion and provides appropriate techniques for dumping and management of mine spoil. Chapter 4 provides an overview of mine spoil properties, successively physical (soil texture, soil moisture, infiltration, particle density, bulk density, and porosity), chemical (pH, organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and microbial (structure, function, and diversity) properties of mine soils. All these changes substantially affect revegetation on the degraded landscape. The book could have been more informative if the editor had elaborated, as suggested by the chapter's title, on any relation of these properties to the establishment of vegetation on coalmine degraded lands, in addition to defining each property and providing protocols to measure them.

Chapter 7 addresses seed science and technology, providing useful information for treatment of seeds before seeding on degraded sites. The first two sections of Chapter 8 include techniques for raising forest tree saplings. The editor emphasizes that the use of local native species (a mixture of herbs, shrubs, trees, and legumes) is preferable for revegetation on degraded lands (Chapters 8 and 9), that biofertilizers (VAM) can improve substrate quality (Chapter 11), and that mulching material with high C/N ratio can arrest erosion for a relatively long time and improve soil structure (Chapter 10). The effects of application of VAM in bioreclamation of overburden dumps are briefly discussed (Sections 11.11 and 11.12). Though the editor has specified the importance of litter accumulation and soil properties (nutrient accumulation, soil microbial biomass, and dehydrogenase) in monitoring reclamation success (Chapters 13 and 14), he did not compare these indicators with non-mined natural ecosystems as reference sites to calculate a soil quality index over a period of time. Natural succession (passive restoration) on coalmine degraded lands is generally very slow and takes hundreds of years to develop a biodiversity-rich ecosystem. This is mainly due to biotic (herbaceous competition and grazing) and abiotic (soil structure, drought, significant topographical change, high temperature, low nutrients availability, etc.) factors, lack of locally available seed sources and dispersal limitations. Technical reclamation (active restoration/ecological engineering) involves manipulation of physical (tillage), chemical (organic and inorganic amendments), and biological (flora, fauna and microbes) components of degraded ecosystems to accelerate the recovery process. The book does not review or synthesize how we can link these processes with ecorestoration of coalmine degraded lands, as compared to reference sites. This could have been possible by giving a comparative assessment of different protocols to measure their efficacy. The five chapters (Chapters 18–22) of Part II address methodologies involved in plant and soil sampling, analysis of physical, chemical and biological soil properties and plant analysis, establishment of field trials and vegetation surveys. I do not consider these chapters essential in this particular book on ecorestoration.

The book suffers from several shortcomings. The use of several abbreviations without any explanation hinders the flow of reading. In terms of content, there is no discussion of recently published research and review papers on coalmine degraded lands. Providing the list of chemicals is not useful. It fails to provide, as intended, a comprehensive review of the practical approaches (restoration successes and failures) and guide young minds for proper scientific ecorestoration of coalmine degraded lands. Several workers in India have advocated ‘Integrated Biotechnological Approaches’ for ecorestoration of mining areas but the editor does not include concrete findings of such approaches in this book. In fact, the editor seems to be more comfortable with his specific studies, explaining the fundamentals of ecology and describing taxonomy and ecology of an exhaustive list of plant species (with colorful pictures). This book appears to be useful as a basic textbook for students and new professionals of mining engineering.