British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

A new paradigm for the restoration of drastically disturbed sites Polster, David


Traditional reclamation treatments have generally failed to meet expectations for biodiversity and sustainability. Uniform stands of seeded agronomic grasses and legumes can remain successionally stagnant for decades making forest recovery difficult and severely limiting biodiversity. The failure to reestablish natural successional trajectories on many traditionally reclaimed areas results in degraded ecological conditions that invite invasion by weedy species resulting in weed infested reclaimed areas. Restoration treatments based on the use of natural processes that have been addressing natural disturbances for millions of years can be very effective. Natural successional processes provide answers to species selection and sequencing questions while natural nutrient cycling processes can suggest soil development solutions. Natural erosion control processes can be applied to bare soils to address erosion issues. Understanding the factors that prevent or limit natural recovery can also be important to determine solutions. Compaction, steep slopes and excessive erosion are abiotic factors that can prevent recovery while competition and herbivory are common biotic factors that may limit recovery. This paper presents a new model for treatment of drastically disturbed sites based on the application of these natural processes and the filters (constraints) that limit these processes. Examples are drawn from the author’s experience of over 30 years of reclaiming drastically disturbed sites.

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