Research Output

The influence of coal mine spoil physical properties on the spatial distribution of lichen-rich communities

  Coal mine spoil tips have been recognised as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan habitat owing to the presence of a host of unique flora and fauna assemblages and, in particular, " lichen heaths. " The natural revegetation of abandoned spoil tips in South Wales, UK, has created some of the most dynamic habitats and historic landscapes for lichen colonisation. The sensitivity of lichen habitat to vegetation successional processes and anthropogenic factors is leading to their gradual extinction without intervention. Such is the threat that there is a requirement for the reconstruction of coal spoil tip habitats following the eventual closure of a recently consented surface mine. While recent colonisation of coal spoil elsewhere has been documented, this has been opportunistic and has not involved the deliberate reconstruction of the habitat following mining. Experience elsewhere indicates that the physical properties of the landform and spoil material are important factors in colonisation. However, little is known about the factors relating to the high rainfall environment in South Wales. In order to provide guidance for the recreation of the lichen habitat, a detailed study was undertaken to determine the relationships between the spatial distribution of vegetation class patches and the physical proprieties of coal mine spoils in South Wales. The aim was to understand the key physical factors aiding the establishment and development of lichen species on the mine spoils. Lichen-dominant patches were observed in the field during a physical properties survey and sampled for laboratory analysis alongside two other vegetation classes (bare ground and a moss-heather mix). Relationships were identified between vegetation class and physical properties, including slope aspect, slope gradient, slope form, erodibility (through laboratory simulated rainfall experiments) and the particle-size distribution of the slope-forming materials. The results demonstrate that several physical properties of the coal mine spoil have significant influence on the spatial distribution of vegetation classes. It was found that the lichen-dominant patches were best established on southwest-facing slopes, with slope gradients ranging from 22 to 32 o , where higher successional vegetation classes were less abundant. While this study provides a better understanding of the spatial distribution of vegetation classes in the replication of coal spoil lichen habitats, it also identified that a singular rule-based approach might not be applicable across multiple coal mine spoil habitats without further research owing to the nature of mine spoil sites. Even so, knowing the influence of key physical properties on vegetation distribution will aid design decisions relating to the replication of lichen communities following mine closure. In the UK, mine spoil tips have been recognised as biodiversity action plan (BAP) habitats hosting unique flora and fauna assemblages (JNCC, 2010). Despite this, little is known about how or why rare community patches

The influence of coal mine spoil physical properties on the spatial distribution of lichen-rich communities. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280305946_The_influence_of_coal_mine_spoil_physical_properties_on_the_spatial_distribution_of_lichen-rich_communities

  • Date:

    04 September 2015

  • Publication Status:

    Published

  • Library of Congress:

    QK Botany

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    575 Specific parts of & systems in plants

  • Funders:

    Celtic Energy Ltd

Citation

Whitlock, D., Rickson, J., Humphries, N., Thompson, R. & Tibbett, M. (2015). The influence of coal mine spoil physical properties on the spatial distribution of lichen-rich communities. In Mine Closure 2015: Proceedings of the tenth internation conference on mine closure, 1047. ISBN 9780991790593

Authors

Keywords

Coal mine spoil, lichens, micro-rich habitats,

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