Sand mining restoration on the Swan coastal plain using topsoil : Learning from monitoring of previous rehabilitation attempts
The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management
This paper reports on the results of several years of monitoring rehabilitation at a silica sand mine on the Swan Coastal Plain, south of Perth. Mining here occurs below the regional watertable and leaves a post-mine landscape of dredge pond voids (pit lakes) with surrounding battered slopes. The restoration we recommended was to develop the pit lakes as wetlands of regional analogue and value. Several different restoration techniques have been applied to re-vegetate pit lake slopes over many years which have enabled an evaluation of reasons for success/failure of different restoration approaches. Learning acquired clearly showed the benefits of using fresh topsoil for restoration over topsoil that has been stockpiled for several years. Most topsoil used in restoration was from seasonal wetlands and consequently restoration was most successful in the riparian zone from the edge of pit lakes to about 2 m vertically above the water table. Topsoil restored areas above this level remained poor in plant species and cover. Conversely, remedial seeding/planting proved largely unsuccessful. Permanently and seasonally flooded pit lake margins recolonised relatively quickly and successfully with native sedges and rushes. Development of rehabilitated upper slope plant communities over time was evident with loss of typical wetland species and greater growth and survivorship of upland and dampland plant species on mid to upper rehabilitated slopes. Plant communities of lower slopes showed a converse pattern of development, with a shift towards a more typical wetland composition. We believe matching topsoil to site and development of topographic profiles similar to natural wetlands of the region are the keys to optimising restoration success of sand mines with shallow water tables.