20.11.2019 change 20.11.2019

Biologists Develop Model For Supporting Permanent "Greening" of Waste Dumps

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

A method of supporting the permanent "greening" of mining waste dumps, otherwise known as spoil heaps, has been developed by biologists at the University of Silesia in Katowice.

The method which uses a geoinformatic model suggests vegetation worth introducing on the basis of data from a specific area.

Spoil heaps are common in the Silesian landscape but according to Dr. Edyta Sierka from the university, although these areas are most often associated with wasteland, the natural systems that form on them are very diverse; there are numerous species of herbaceous plants and trees.

”She said: “Spoil heaps, areas whose natural potential is used to a small extent, after the introduction of appropriate plants can become objects supporting the mitigation of climate change, for example by sequestering carbon dioxide (capturing this compound to reduce its content in the air - PAP). 

“In addition, it appears that biomass produced by the plant species found on heaps may be used in the future, e.g. for energy purposes. Therefore, it is not justified to treat heaps as elements disrupting the landscape, but rather as objects with natural potential for development.”

The Inforevita project, the goal of which was to develop a model supporting the lasting reclamation of heaps, was based on the study of the functional diversity of vegetation in the post-industrial environment in relation to ecological conditions. It involved studying the features of plant species and all relationships between plants, as well as the relationship between plants and the ground, microflora in the ground and terrain.

Dr Sierka said: “Samples and data were collected from more than 300 research plots on three heaps. Plant species growing there were listed, with particular emphasis on dominant species. Substrate samples were also collected and analysed in terms of microbiology and physicochemistry. 

“The condition of the plants was also checked and their biomass measured. The collected data were combined with a digital terrain model, i.e. information about the formation of the modelled surface in relation to the features of the natural environment. 

“It was a big undertaking. 30-35 people took part in the design work.”

All input data, combined with remote sensing images of these areas, were introduced into the developed model. The result was a visualization of plant species grouped according to the conditions of occurrence, which in turn allowed for standardization of optimal - according to researchers - habitat conditions for individual vegetation types.

As a result, the model proposes a solution that can be used to design and introduce vegetation in a specific area subject to reclamation.

The finished model is offered in two versions: it is possible to use the software only, or additionally take advantage of consultations with specialists including a site visit with their participation.

Dr Sierka added: “There are no effects of testing the model on other objects yet. However, it can be said that the proposed method (...) will allow for the most important relationships identified in the natural environment to be taken into account, and the proposed solutions will lead to the lasting introduction of wild plants, adapted to the prevailing habitat conditions.”

According to biologists, the model can be used not only for spoil heap reclamation planning, but probably also for other types of wasteland.

The method and model were developed as part of the project "Inforevita - System supporting the revitalization of mining waste dumps using geoinformatic tools". Its leader was Dr. Gabriela Woźniak. 

The main tasks in the project were managed by Dr. Agnieszka Kompała-Bąba and Dr. Eugeniusz Małkowski. 

The cost of the project is over 1.7 million PLN; it was financed by the National Science Centre and the National Centre for Research and Development.

PAP- Nauka w Polsce, Agnieszka Kliks-Pudlik

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