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Benefits of adopting seed-based technologies for rehabilitation in the mining sector: a Pilbara perspective

Published on Jan 1, 2017in Australian Journal of Botany1.164
· DOI :10.1071/BT17154
Todd E. Erickson15
Estimated H-index: 15
(UWA: University of Western Australia),
Miriam Muñoz-Rojas18
Estimated H-index: 18
(UNSW: University of New South Wales)
+ 9 AuthorsDavid J. Merritt34
Estimated H-index: 34
(UWA: University of Western Australia)
Sources
Abstract
The use of native plant seeds is fundamental to large-scale rehabilitation and the re-establishment of self-sustaining ecosystems after high-impact mining activity has ceased. However, many of the biological attributes of seeds are often overlooked in large-scale rehabilitation programs. Multi-disciplinary, long-term research collaborations are required to improve seed-based mine rehabilitation. In this paper, we review the steps that BHP Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO), a large iron ore mining company that operates in the Pilbara bioregion of north-west Western Australia, has taken over the past 9 years to ensure continuous improvement in rehabilitation procedures. We introduce the mining activities that WAIO undertake in the Pilbara, and emphasise specific examples of how research findings have led to incremental improvements in the seed management cycle, growth media management and mine rehabilitation practices. Specifically, we outline how the implementation of structured seed collection and storage programs has created the capacity to maintain high-quality seed stocks sufficient for 3–5 years of future rehabilitation. Research has documented the prevalence of seed dormancy in the flora (>70% of 105 species examined produce dormant seeds), with physical and physiological classes of dormancy most commonly encountered. We discuss the development of seed-treatments such as optimised wet-heat and dry after-ripening that have increased the germination capacity of many previously dormant seed batches. In addition, we highlight how seed enhancement technologies, such as hydro-priming with smoke-derived germination stimulants and polymer seed coating, and a greater understanding of the biological and physical limitations present in the growing environment, have vastly improved seedling emergence performance under field conditions for key framework Triodia species. Ongoing industry support (e.g. construction of a purpose-built rain manipulation shelter) has ensured research in the Pilbara will continue to unpack and resolve the complex challenges associated with seed regeneration of biodiverse native plant communities after mining.
  • References (66)
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#1Nancy Shackelford (UVic: University of Victoria)H-Index: 5
#2Ben P. Miller (Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority)H-Index: 23
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Restoration is becoming an increasing global priority. Particularly in high impact developments like open cut mining, restoring ecosystems to pre-disturbance states is difficult but essential. Successful restoration of vegetation communities requires complex achievements of cover, density, community composition, species richness and structural elements. This study synthesizes 10 years of monitoring surveys to measure restoration success in six mining operations in the semi-arid Pilbara of Wester...
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#1Amber Bateman (UWA: University of Western Australia)H-Index: 3
#2Wolfgang Lewandrowski (UWA: University of Western Australia)H-Index: 8
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Restoration of degraded arid and semi-arid land faces the challenge of reinstating vegetation communities exposed to limited and variable rainfall events that in combination with a deficit of original topsoil may exceed thresholds for seedling development. In a series of glasshouse experiments, we evaluated variation in drought responses of (i) 21 arid zone plant species from the mining intensive Pilbara region of Western Australia in an original topsoil substrate and (ii) four selected species ...
9 CitationsSource
#1Wolfgang Lewandrowski (UWA: University of Western Australia)H-Index: 8
#2Todd E. Erickson (UWA: University of Western Australia)H-Index: 15
Last. Jason Stevens (UWA: University of Western Australia)H-Index: 14
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Background and Aims: Regeneration dynamics in many arid zone grass species are regulated by innate seed dormancy mechanisms and environmental cues (temperature, moisture and fire) that result in infrequent germination following rainfall. This study investigated bet-hedging strategies associated with dormancy and germination in arid zone Triodia species from north-west Australia, by assessing (1) the effects of the mechanical restriction imposed by the indehiscent floral bracts (i.e. floret) cove...
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#1Margaret ByrneH-Index: 41
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Aim Topographically complex areas are hypothesized to be mesic refugia in arid environments during periods of climatic change. We tested the hypothesis that an elevated and topographically complex range has been a historical refugium in an arid environment during Pleistocene climatic oscillations for a widespread eucalypt. Location Pilbara region, north-west Australia. Methods We evaluated genetic diversity and differentiation in chloroplast and nuclear genomes using microsatellite loci in 20 po...
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#1Lucy Commander (Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority)H-Index: 13
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While understanding that seed germination is crucial for ecological restoration activities, the seed traits of desert perennials are understudied. We experimentally determined germination traits of 43 species from 14 families from Hummock grasslands in the Great Sandy Desert, Australia. We defined morphological and physiological seed traits of framework species required for restoration and investigated the effects of fire and temperature on seed germination. We classified dormancy and explored t...
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#1Ben P. Miller (Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority)H-Index: 23
#2Elizabeth A. Sinclair (Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority)H-Index: 20
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Demand for restoration of resilient, self-sustaining, and biodiverse natural ecosystems as a conservation measure is increasing globally; however, restoration efforts frequently fail to meet standards appropriate for this objective. Achieving these standards requires management underpinned by input from diverse scientific disciplines including ecology, biotechnology, engineering, soil science, ecophysiology, and genetics. Despite increasing restoration research activity, a gap between the immedi...
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#1Jason Stevens (Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority)H-Index: 14
#2Kingsley W. Dixon (Curtin University)H-Index: 59
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#1Wolfgang Lewandrowski (UWA: University of Western Australia)H-Index: 8
#2Todd E. Erickson (UWA: University of Western Australia)H-Index: 15
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Summary 1.Demographic recruitment processes, such as seed germination and seedling emergence, are critical transitional phases to the re-establishment of degraded plant populations, but often fail due to rainfall not supporting plant requirements. Using species from the widespread arid Australian perennial grass genus Triodia, we investigated the interactions of seeds in different dormancy states and their functional germination envelope in response to water stress after simulated pulse rainfall...
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Phenological patterns including peak flowering and seed production of 19 grass, herb, shrub and tree species were studied in the Pilbara biogeographic region of Western Australia. Each plant population was monitored monthly over an 18-month period. Qualitative data was collected capturing plant phenophases. Plant fecundity was estimated using X-ray analyses to determine the proportion of seeds produced. Two main phenological patterns were established across plant life-forms. Precipitation during...
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Summary Restoration is normally conducted with the goal of creating plant populations that establish, survive, successfully reproduce, contribute to ecosystem function and persist in the long term. Restoration often relies on revegetation that, on large scales, requires agronomic increase of native plant materials. During this propagation process, restoration populations are subject to genetic sampling as well as natural and artificial selection that could result in adaptation contrasting sharpl...
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