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Diagnosis and prognosis of soil fertility constraints for land restoration

Bell, R.W. (1999) Diagnosis and prognosis of soil fertility constraints for land restoration. In: Wong, M.H., Wong, J.W.C. and Baker, A.J.M., (eds.) Remediation and Management of Degraded Lands. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 163-173.


The finite nature of existing global land resources means that degraded land must be restored if the demand for increased food, fiber, and timber production is to be satisfied. The agents that threaten land quality and productivity are varied in nature, however; many of them have a nutritional component and it is the methodology behind the diagnosis and prognosis of such nutritional disorders that is the main emphasis of this paper.

Soil fertility constraints for land restoration are diverse in their origin and nature and can be grouped under the following broad categories: acidity, alkalinity, salinity, sodicity, nutrient deficiency, and elemental toxicity. All of the preceding chemical constraints impact on plant nutrition. Nutritional constraints in pot experiments with rehabilitation substrates, in field experiments, and in post-revegetation monitoring and management can be diagnosed using plant analysis, plant symptoms, and plant response. In addition, plant and soil analysis can be used for the prognosis of possible soil fertility constraints which may limit plant growth after restoration, but their use depends on properly calibrated standards for the interpretation of the plant and soil analysis. Principles for the proper calibration of the soil and plant analysis standards will be discussed with particular reference to nutrient deficiencies. Long-term success in alleviating soil fertility and plant nutrient constraints also-needs to be assessed in land restoration since nutrient cycling is one of the key ecosystem functions that restoration seeks to reestablish (Hobbs and Norton, 1996). Though soil and plant analysis are used in nutrient cycling studies, their application and the types of standards used for managed agricultural postmine use differs from the cases where restoration is aimed at a native bushland, grassland, or forest. These differences are discussed below.

The term "restoration" is used in the present review as a generic term after Hobbs and Norton (1996), who suggest "that restoration occurs along a continuum and that different activities are simply different forms of restoration." Given that most of the study concerns restoration of land degraded by mining, the term rehabilitation as defined by Aronson et al. (1993) is also appropriate.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Lewis Publishers
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