Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/1/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: This book chapter discusses the physical and chemical characteristics of disturbed lands including surface mines, highway slopes and construction sites. High acidity and various other factors affecting pH, including naturally acidic strata and oxidation of sulfur compounds as well as corrective actions for these factors are discussed. These land disturbances usually result in severe nutrient deficiencies especially nitrogen and phosphorus. The disturbed sites are usually revegetated with grasses and legumes along with various tree species for long term cover. The soil fertility requirement of these cover crops and trees are discussed along with a discussion of the soil amendments needed to promote a successful reclamation of these lands which is mandated by the current land reclamation laws.
Technical Abstract: In the Southeastern and many other parts of the USA, large land areas are drastically disturbed by strip-surface mining for coal and other purposes. These processes limit land revegetation due to high acidity, toxic seepage, and heavy metals toxicity. The changes in soil chemical and physical characteristics such as soil texture, structure, bulk density, exchange capacity, pH, organic matter content, lack of soil profile and many other factors result in a permanent reduction in soil productivity and fertility. Lands disturbed by surface mining in the Midwestern and eastern parts of the U.S. have pH values below 5.0 and often difficult to revegetate due to poor plant growth and establishment. Acidification of spoil material (mixture of soil parent materials, sulfur bearing coal fragments, shale, sandstone, and original soil) and the topsoil is primarily due to oxidation of pyritic (FeS2) overburden that is generally toxic to plants. One of the major problems associated with high acidity of these sites is the accumulation and solubility of heavy metals and their eventual drainage into nearby streams as pollutants. Due to lack of vegetation, erosion has removed most of the fine soil particles making reclamation of these lands even more difficult. This chapter discusses and characterizes the disturbed lands with regard to their physical and chemical properties, and provides guidelines for different management practices required for their successful reclamation.