Novel ecosystems created by coal mines in central Queensland's Bowen Basin

Erskine, Peter D. and Fletcher, Andrew T. (2013) Novel ecosystems created by coal mines in central Queensland's Bowen Basin. Ecological Processes, 2 33: 1-12. doi:10.1186/2192-1709-2-33

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Author Erskine, Peter D.
Fletcher, Andrew T.
Title Novel ecosystems created by coal mines in central Queensland's Bowen Basin
Journal name Ecological Processes   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 2192-1709
Publication date 2013-12-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1186/2192-1709-2-33
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 2
Issue 33
Start page 1
End page 12
Total pages 12
Place of publication Heidelberg, Germany
Publisher SpringerOpen
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Introduction Open-cut coal mining began in central Queensland’s Bowen Basin approximately 50 years ago. Over this period of time, mine rehabilitators have used a variety of tree, shrub, and groundcover species to create ‘novel ecosystems’ to stabilise soils and provide vegetative cover for pre-supposed final end-land uses. We examine post-mining rehabilitation from multiple soil and vegetation monitoring activities in the Bowen Basin to assess the similarity of landforms, plant composition, and trends in plant diversity compared to unmined reference communities.

Methods Rehabilitated spoil dumps and reference sites were assessed using soil and vegetation data contained in compliance monitoring reports from Goonyella Riverside, Moura, Oaky Creek, Rolleston, and Blackwater mines. Slopes, soil chemistry, and plant species mixes of rehabilitation aged from 2 to 22 years were compared to selected reference communities.

Results Mines in this region have generally proposed one of two post-rehabilitation end-land uses: either pasture for cattle grazing or reconstructed native communities which potentially provide native fauna habitat. Landform data from a selection of these mine sites suggest that when their rehabilitation was compared to nearby reference sites median slope values were between 2.5 and 7 times steeper and soil pH, electrical conductivity, and phosphorus levels were significantly higher. The steeply sloped landforms, poor soil characteristics, depauperate native species pool, and uniform presence of exotic pasture grasses in the rehabilitation indicate that most of these newly created ecosystems should not be used for cattle grazing and also have few natural values.

Conclusions Legislative and community expectations have changed progressively over time and, although much of the rehabilitation is currently dominated by an assemblage of exotic buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and Acacia spp., recent environmental authorities suggest these ‘novel ecosystems’ will be judged against native reference sites. Upon completion of mining activities the resilience of these new ecosystems to drought, fire, and grazing will need to be demonstrated prior to lease relinquishment.
Keyword Coal mining
Completion criteria
Environmental conditions
Novel ecosystems
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation Publications
Official 2014 Collection
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Created: Fri, 17 Jan 2014, 12:51:42 EST by Dr Peter Erskine on behalf of Centre For Mined Land Rehabilitation