Beneficial effects of earthworms and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on establishment of leguminous trees on Pb/Zn mine tailings

Y. Ma, N. M. Dickinson*, Ming Hung WONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Planting trees to stabilize metalliferous mine tailings is a widely used form of land reclamation although substantial soil amendment is invariably required, both to improve the physico-chemical status of the tailings and to ameliorate toxicity prior to planting. Here, we report a glasshouse study of the combined effects of burrowing earthworms (Pheretima guillelmi) and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Glomus spp., AMF) on establishment of a naturally invasive, woody, nitrogen-fixing legume, Leucaena leucocephala, on topsoil-amended Pb/Zn mine tailings. AMF provided the most effective preliminary inoculant, improving N, P and K uptake, but earthworms had more influence improving N nutrition. In most cases, the combined effects of AMF and earthworms were additive and proved to be beneficial to plant growth, plant nutrition and for protection against uptake of toxic metals. AMF influenced metal uptake more than earthworms, but together they reduced mobility of Pb and Zn in soil by as much as 25%. Some minor but significant negative interactions were also evident; for example, earthworms enhanced soil microbial activity but inhibited the beneficial effects of AMF on N2-fixation. We argue that increased attention to ecological interactions in soil could reduce costs and improve the efficacy of restoring a vegetation cover to land impacted by contaminated spoils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1403-1412
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Leucaena leucocephala
  • Mycorrhizae
  • Pb
  • Pheretima guillelmi
  • Reclamation
  • Zn


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