Use of insoluble polyacrylate polymers to aid phytostabilization of mine soils: effects on plant growth and soil characteristics

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Received for publication March 5, 2009. We evaluated the use of polyacrylate polymers to aid phytostabilization of mine soils. In a pot experiment, perennial ryegrass was grown in a mine soil and in uncontaminated soil. Growth was stimulated in the polymer-amended mine soil compared with an unamended control, and water-extractable levels of soil Cu and Zn decreased after polymer application. In an experiment performed in six 60-cm-diameter cylinders filled with fertilized mine soil, polymers were applied to three cylinders, with the remainder used as unamended control. Total biomass produced by indigenous plant species sown in polymer-amended soil was 1.8 (Spring-Summer) or 2.4 times (Fall-Winter) greater than that of plants from unamended soil. The application of polymers to the mine soil led to the greatest activity of soil enzymes. Soil pH, biomass of Spergularia purpurea and Chaetopogon fasciculatus, and activities of protease and cellulase had large loadings on principal component (PC)1, whereas growth of Briza maxima and the activities of urease, acid phosphatase, and β-glucosidase had large loadings on PC2. The treatments corresponding to controls were located on the negative side of PC1 and PC2. Amended treatments were on the positive side of PC2 (Spring-Summer) or on the positive side of PC1 (Fall-Winter), demonstrating differential responses of plants and soil parameters in the two growth cycles.

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