Establishment and growth of two willow species in a Riparian zone impacted by mine tailings

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Received for publication April 2, 2008. A field study was initiated to determine survival, growth characteristics, and metal uptake of two montane riparian willow species, Geyer (Salix geyeriana Andersson) and mountain (S. monticola Bebb) willow, grown in amended fluvial mine tailing deposits. Revegetation was done with staked and previously rooted cuttings to determine if planting method had an effect on successful establishment of willows. A second planting was done the following growing season which tested cuttings of different ages. The addition of lime increased the soil pH from 5.0 to 6.5 and effectively reduced bioavailability of most heavy metals below phytotoxic levels. However, both willow species, regardless of planting method, concentrated Cd, Mn, Pb, and Zn in their leaf tissue above levels considered toxic to agronomic plants. Over the course of four growing seasons, prerooted mountain willows had a consistently higher survival rate compared to staked willows. At the end of the fourth growing season, mountain willow had a higher survival rate and produced greater aboveground growth for both planting methods, irrespective of year planted, compared with Geyer willow. Based on growth characteristics, the use of prerooted mountain willows would be recommended for successful revegetation of amended fluvial mine tailing deposits in riparian zones. However, because of the high Cd uptake into aboveground tissues, care should be taken in restoration efforts where wildlife and domestic livestock are likely to browse on the willows.

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