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Aluminium and Acacia plant growth on coal mine dumps

Fox, J.E.D., Doronila, A.I., Hughes, M.ORCID: 0000-0002-9810-1891 and Barrett, D.R. (1994) Aluminium and Acacia plant growth on coal mine dumps. In: Jones, I.O., (ed.) The Third International Conference on Environmental Issues and Waste Management in Energy and Mineral Production : proceedings : 30th August-1st September, 1994, Perth, Western Australia. Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia, pp. 627-635.

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Colonising native and introduced plant species present on old abandoned dumps in the Collie coal field in south-west Western Australia provide a potential resource for rehabilitation. Coal waste dumps are more acidic than the surrounding forest soils, indicating a potentially toxic presence of aluminium. Some plants exhibit tolerance, and may accumulate, avoid or exclude aluminium. Excluders restrict translocation of the metal bound in root cells. Evolution of tolerance to metal stress may be comparatively rapid and although aluminium has many adverse affects on growth, plants tolerant of its presence also tend to be drought tolerant, an advantage for survival on dumps over dry summers.

Progeny of a dump population of Acacia decurrens are contrasted with a non-dump population. Seedlings were subjected to varied concentrations of aluminium in solution and harvested at 10 weeks. A. decurrens tolerated low levels of applied aluminium but severe effects on growth were observed at 500 ppm. Plants of dump origin failed to produce greater plant biomass than non-dump plants. However, dump origin plants took up less total aluminium than non-dump plants, indicating an avoidance mechanism. Dump progeny held more of the absorbed aluminium within roots, translocating lower quantities to foliage, suggesting an exclusion mechanism. Decreased tissue nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium coincided with increased aluminium supplied. Calcium decline was the most severe. Trace element and manganese concentrations increased with added aluminium.

Despite an inability to out-perform non-dump progeny, the pattern of nutrient uptake indicates a real difference between the two accessions. In the long run survivors are likely to persist and reproduce if they have successfully avoided uptake of deleterious elements beyond the root systems. It is therefore recommended that collection of seed for use on coal-mine rehabilitation sites should be made from established plants growing on dumps.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Curtin University of Technology
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