Vegetation and soil development on coal mine spoils at high elevation in the Canadian Rockies.
The ecological development of reclaimed coal mine waste near the timberline in southeastern British Columbia was examined by comparing six sites revegetated with a seeded grass-legume sward, ranging in age from 0 to 6 years, a naturally-revegetated disturbed area, and a native grassland. Peak standing crop of shoots and roots, detritis accumulation, soil respiration in the field and laboratory, rate of cellulose decomposition and soil pH, total nitrogen and available phosphorus were measured on each site.newline˜On the reclaimed areas, root, shoot and detritus biomass, soil CO2 evolution in both field and laboratory, and cellulose decomposition increased and soil pH decreased with site age. High levels of total soil nitrogen existed in all sites because of indigenous nitrogen in the waste rock. Phosphorus availability was low in unvegetated and newly seeded spoil but was uniformly higher on older sites. The oldest reclaimed site was similar to the native grassland in many respects except that the stabilized pool of organic matter on the native site was apparently absent on the 6-year reclaimed area.