Interactions between earthworms, trees, soil nutrition and metal mobility in amended Pb/Zn mine tailings from Guangdong, China

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper reports research that attempts to rehabilitate toxic Pb/Zn mine tailings, in Guangdong, China, to achieve a healthy functional soil that supports sustainable vegetation. We studied the effects of the earthworm Pheretima guillelmi on the growth of a woody legume Leucaena leucocephala on Pb/Zn mine tailings diluted with varying amounts of mineral soil in pot experiments. L. leucocephala grew successfully on tailings with a 25% (w/w) soil amendment, but P. guillelmi only survived and actively burrowed with a 50% soil amendment. The presence of earthworms improved the yield of plants by 10-30%. Whilst earthworms marginally increased available N and P in soil, they increased uptake of phosphorus (by about 10%) to above-ground plant tissues. Six-month-old plants were more sensitive than 10-month plants to metal stress. P. guillelmi increased bioavailable metal concentrations in the amended spoils, accompanied by a direct increase of metal uptake by the plants. Increased metal uptake by plants was largely due to the higher dry matter production stimulated by earthworm activity, but this increased the rate of metal uptake into plants from spoil by at least 16% and as much as 53%. These results demonstrate that we should broaden the ecological context of phytoremediation by considering the plant-soil-animal interactions that influence metal mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1379
Number of pages11
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Volume35
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2003

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Earthworms
  • Metal availability
  • Metal mobility
  • Mine reclamation
  • Phytoremediation

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