Microbial biobanking – cyanobacteria-rich topsoil facilitates mine rehabilitation

Williams, Wendy; Chilton, Angela; Schneemilch, Mel; Williams, Stephen; Neilan, Brett; Driscoll, Colin

Restoration of soils post-mining requires key solutions to complex issues through which the disturbance of topsoil incorporating soil microbial communities can result in a modification to ecosystem function. This research was in collaboration with Iluka Resources at the Jacinth–Ambrosia (J–A) mineral sand mine located in a semi-arid chenopod shrubland in southern Australia. At J–A, assemblages of microorganisms and microflora inhabit at least half of the soil surfaces and are collectively known as biocrusts. This research encompassed a polyphasic approach to soil microbial community profiling focused on “biobanking” viable cyanobacteria in topsoil stockpiles to facilitate rehabilitation. We found that cyanobacterial communities were compositionally diverse topsoil microbiomes. There was no significant difference in cyanobacterial community structure across soil types. As hypothesised, cyanobacteria were central to soil microprocesses, strongly supported by species richness and diversity. Cyanobacteria were a significant component of all three successional stages with 21 species identified from 10 sites. Known nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria Symploca, Scytonema, Porphyrosiphon, Brasilonema, Nostoc, and Gloeocapsa comprised more than 50 % of the species richness at each site and 61 % of the total community richness. In the first study of its kind, we have described the response of cyanobacteria to topsoil stockpiling at various depths and ages. Cyanobacteria are moderately resilient to stockpiling at depth and over time, with average species richness greatest in the top 10 cm of the stockpiles of all ages and more viable within the first 6 weeks, indicating potential for biocrust re-establishment. In general, the resilience of cyanobacteria to burial in topsoil stockpiles in both the short and long term was significant; however, in an arid environment recolonisation and community diversity could be impeded by drought. Biocrust re-establishment during mine rehabilitation relies on the role of cyanobacteria as a means of early soil stabilisation. At J–A mine operations do not threaten the survival of any of the organisms we studied. Increased cyanobacterial biomass is likely to be a good indicator and reliable metric for the re-establishment of soil microprocesses.

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Williams, Wendy / Chilton, Angela / Schneemilch, Mel / et al: Microbial biobanking – cyanobacteria-rich topsoil facilitates mine rehabilitation. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Wendy Williams et al.

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