Zero-Waste Mine Reclamation: Coal + Steel + Human Wastes = Soil

by Zoe Dilles

Coal has seen a worldwide growth in production in recent decades despite health as well as environmental concerns as coal combustion is cited as the primary CO2 atmospheric source. In this age anthropogenic climate change, air emissions often overshadow the threats posed coalmine waste rock, which has far-reaching ecological effects from its metal and acid contents. Mixes of coal waste rock with other substances to balance the concentration of nutrients and minerals can order to promote plant growth. Fabricated soils have the potential to reduce landfill disposal as well as mitigate the issues attendant to reclamation reliant on borrowed soils, often leading to deforestation and hydrologic changes. Continue reading

Forest Restoration May Only Have Short-term Positive Effects on Ground Water Storage in Semi-arid Aquifers

by Zoe Dilles

The already scarce water resources of the semi-arid western United States will become increasingly precarious with the progression of warming and drying climate change. When compounded with growing demand for water, this issue mandates a balanced management practice incorporating sustainable water budgets and land use. Forest restoration efforts are currently slated for an area of some 600,000 acres of National Forest in north-central Arizona, comprising nearly 1% of the state’s footprint. These treatments, anticipated to last the duration of the coming decade, will consist of selective thinning and burning of high-density conifer forest to mitigate wildfire potential and increase the health of regional forested watersheds. The impact of tree removal on surface water has been the subject of previous study but is rarely quantified in regards to groundwater resources. Especially in such a dry region, the future of water availability lies in the relationship between rainfall and recharge of deep aquifers, reservoirs that are permanently diminished through over-pumping. Continue reading

Spring Invertebrate Communities in a Restored Wetland

by Andrew Walnum

The goal of every restoration project is to restore degraded ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-disturbed functions. For wetlands, restoring the hydrological function of the area is usually what restoration ecologists aim to achieve, often at a rate which quickly makes changes to the hydrology and chemistry of the landscape. Although ecological restoration is an important growing field, very little is known about the inter-habitat effects of restoration. Freshwater springs regularly form along wetland ecosystems but there have been no studies to find how restoration might affect these habitats. Illmonen et al.(2013) looks at the effects of restoring wetland on these non-target ecosystems by looking at macroinvertebrate diversity. Because these habitats are geographically scattered the authors believed that recovery time for these springs may be slow due to poor dispersing mechanisms for macroinvertebrates, although more cosmopolitan species may take over quickly. Continue reading