Martha Orozco Aceves
Thesis: Plant-soil feedback with emphasis on soil food web as a driving force of plant community composition in restoration after bauxite mining
This research will study through diverse methodologies how “plant-soil feedback” mechanisms contribute to determine the structure and succession of plant communities. Moreover, this phenomenon will be studied in jarrah forest restored mining soils where restoration attempts following the current ecological knowledge has not been enough to direct successional process towards the original plant community. There is increasing knowledge about the necessity to link above and belowground compartments following a plant-soil feedback approach in order to have a complete picture of ecosystem’s processes. When talking about belowground compartment, soil food webs (SFWs) must be included since they are responsible for key processes. The outcome of this study will contribute to a better understanding of below-aboveground interactions and their impact on vegetation succession in mined soils, helping planners, land managers and decision makers in general to design better restoration strategies encouraging the development of ecosystems as similar as possible to the original.
Why my research is important
In Western Australia, Alcoa World Alumina Australia operates in the Darling Range since 1963. The ecosystem located in this area is unique in the world and characterized by the dominance of jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), therefore called “jarrah forest”. Mining companies have the commitment and obligation to restore land after mining closure. Despite the efforts, it has not been possible to return jarrah forest plant community to its original composition even 20-25 years after rehabilitation. Microbial properties of restored soil like biomass, microbial carbon, respiration, enzymes activity, etc recover 15-20 years after restoration, however; it is necessary to test if feedbacks recover too and to rule out if failure in succession towards the original plant composition is due to an inappropriate interaction between below-aboveground compartments because failure in regulation processes. The general objective of this research is to study plant-soil feedbacks in soils restored after bauxite mining and compare them with those carried out in undisturbed jarrah forest soil.