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Journal of Arid Land  2023, Vol. 15 Issue (12): 1529-1543    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-023-0113-5
Research article     
Soil seed bank is affected by transferred soil thickness and properties in the reclaimed coal mine in the Qilian Mountains, China
YANG Jingyi1, LUO Weicheng2, ZHAO Wenzhi1,2,*(), LIU Jiliang2, WANG Dejin3, LI Guang1
1College of Forestry, Gansu Agricultural University, Lanzhou 730070, China
2Linze Inland River Basin Research Station, Chinese Ecosystem Research Network, Key Laboratory of Ecohydrology of Inland River Basin, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
3Faculty of Modern Agricultural Engineering, Kunming University of Science and Technology, Kunming 650500, China
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Reclamation of lands abandoned after mining in mountain areas is critical to erosion control, safety from landslides, and ecological protection of mountain ecosystems. However, little is known about alpine coal mine reclamation using the soil seed bank as a potential source for revegetation. We collected samples of persistent soil seed bank for germination experiments from nine reclaimed sites with different soil cover thicknesses and from six control sites in the Qilian Mountains of China. Soil properties of each site were determined (including soil water content, soil available potassium, soil available phosphorus, soil total nitrogen, pH, soil organic matter, soil total phosphorus, and soil total potassium, and soil alkali-hydrolyzable nitrogen), and the relationships of the characteristics of the soil seed bank with soil cover thickness and soil properties were examined. The results showed that the density, number of species, and diversity of the topsoil seed bank were significantly correlated with soil cover thickness, and all increased with the increment of soil cover thickness. Soil cover thickness controlled the soil seed bank by influencing soil properties. With the increase in soil cover thickness, soil properties (e.g., soil organic matter, soil total nitrogen, etc.) content increased while soil pH decreased. The soil seed bank had the potential to restored the pre-mining habitat at reclaimed sites with approximately 20-cm soil cover thickness. Soil properties of reclaimed sites were lower than that of natural sites. The relationship between the soil seed bank and soil cover thickness determined in this study provides a foundation for improving reclamation measures used in coal mines, as well as for the management and monitoring of reclaimed areas.

Key wordssoil seed bank      soil cover thickness      species composition      soil properties      Qilian Mountains     
Received: 26 June 2023      Published: 31 December 2023
Corresponding Authors: *ZHAO Wenzhi (E-mail:
Cite this article:

YANG Jingyi, LUO Weicheng, ZHAO Wenzhi, LIU Jiliang, WANG Dejin, LI Guang. Soil seed bank is affected by transferred soil thickness and properties in the reclaimed coal mine in the Qilian Mountains, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(12): 1529-1543.

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Fig. 1 Spatial distribution of reclaimed and natural sites in the study area (a) and photos of different soil cover thicknesses at reclaimed sites (b). DEM, digital elevation model.
Sampling site Latitude and longitude Elevation (m) Area (m2) Soil cover thickness (cm) Reclamation period (a)
NDB2 37°52′13″N, 102°04′45″E 2402 3470 10 6
XSH2 37°52′10″N, 101°57′36″E 2821 46,088 10 6
JFG 37°51′27″N, 102°02′39″E 2240 6003 10 6
LSG 37°51′27″N, 102°02′39″E 2299 20,010 15 6
SMG 37°52′09″N, 101°56′46″E 2640 91,312 15 6
TS 37°52′41″N, 102°04′30″E 2352 12,406 15 6
XSH1 37°52′05″N, 102°05′59″E 2381 46,088 20 6
HG 37°51′27″N, 101°57′06″E 2582 24,012 20 6
NDB1 37°52′13″N, 102°04′45″E 2340 4200 20 6
NA1 37°52′35″N, 101°57′50″E 2875 - - -
NA2 37°52′04″N, 101°56′46″E 2695 - - -
NA3 37°51′36″N, 101°57′19″E 2616 - - -
NA4 37°51′25″N, 102°02′42″E 2317 - - -
NA5 37°52′13″N, 102°04′54″E 2443 - - -
NA6 37°52′31″N, 102°04′53″E 2353 - - -
Table 1 Basic characteristics of reclaimed and natural sites in the study area
Family Species Life
10T 15T 20T NA
Poaceae Elymus dahuricus Turcz. P 133 100 133 183 133 67 233 100 100 233 183 167 200 83 200
Amaranthaceae Chenopodium glaucum L. A 83 167 100 67 50 83 33 183 133 50 200 267 83 150 150
Dysphania schraderiana (Roemer & Schultes) Mosyakin & Clemants A - - - - - - 17 17 - 33 - - - - 17
Nitrariaceae Peganum multisectum (Maxim.) Bobrov P 50 17 17 83 67 33 33 33 17 17 83 33 67 133 67
Plantaginaceae Plantago depressa Willd. P - - 17 17 133 17 133 100 167 250 167 183 100 33 150
Papaveraceae Chelidonium majus L. P 17 67 17 33 33 33 100 50 33 100 117 167 100 50 200
Hypecoum leptocarpum Hook. f. et Thoms. A 83 33 117 - - 117 - 167 200 - 33 83 - 200 233
Brassicaceae Lepidium apetalum Willd. AB - - - - 67 50 167 67 33 167 67 67 - - 33
Rosaceae Fragaria orientalis Lozinsk. P - - - - - - 200 33 - 133 - - - - -
Asteraceae Artemisia argyi Lévl. et Van. P - - - - - - 67 - - - 33 - - 17 33
Fabaceae Thermopsis lanceolata R. Br. P - - - - - - - - 17 - 33 100 33 17 33
Table 2 Species composition and density of the soil seed bank
Fig. 2 Pearson correlation coefficient for the species composition of the soil seed bank in 0-10 cm soil layer. 10T denotes reclaimed sites with 10 cm soil cover thickness (including NDB2, XSH2, and JFG), 15T denotes reclaimed sites with 15 cm soil cover thickness (including LSG, SMG, and TS), 20T denotes reclaimed sites with 20 cm soil cover thickness (including XSH1, HG, and NDB1), and NA denotes natural sites (NA1-NA6). The circles represent correlation coefficients; the larger the circle, the larger the correlation coefficient. *, P<0.05.
Soil layer (cm) Density Number of species R H D E
0-5 15.27 <0.01 4.71 <0.05 2.19 >0.05 4.69 <0.05 3.93 <0.05 1.41 >0.05
5-10 10.74 <0.01 15.25 <0.01 3.08 >0.05 11.27 <0.05 8.26 <0.05 2.19 >0.05
0-10 16.93 <0.01 8.07 <0.01 4.02 <0.05 7.95 <0.05 10.43 <0.05 0.89 >0.05
Table 3 One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) results of the characteristics of the soil seed bank
Fig. 3 Distribution of the density of the soil seed bank (a) and the number of species in the soil seed bank (b) in 0-5, 5-10, and 0-10 cm soil layers. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among different soil cover thicknesses for the same soil layer. Bars mean standard error.
Fig. 4 Margalef richness index (a), Shannon-Wiener diversity index (b), Simpson dominance index (c), and Pielou's evenness index (d) of the soil seed bank in 0-5, 5-10, and 0-10 cm soil layers. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among different soil cover thicknesses for the same soil layer. Bars mean standard error.
Fig. 5 Soil properties of natural sites and reclaimed sites with different soil cover thicknesses. (a), pH; (b), soil water content (SWC); (c), soil organic matter (SOM); (d), soil total nitrogen (TN); (e), soil total phosphorus (TP); (f), soil total potassium (TK); (g), soil Alkali-hydrolysable nitrogen (AN); (h), soil available phosphorus (AP); (i), soil available potassium (AK). Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among natural sites and reclaimed sites with different soil cover thicknesses. Bars mean standard error.
Fig. 6 Redundancy analysis (RDA) of the species density (a) and composition of the soil seed bank (b). The red arrows represent soil properties (including pH, SOM, TN, TP, TK, AN, AP, AK, and SWC). The red solid circles in Figure 6a indicate the species of the soil seed bank, and the size of the solid circles is directly proportional to species density (i.e., the larger the circle, the greater the species density). The circles with different colors in Figure 6b denote the sampling sites. S1, Elymus dahuricus Turcz.; S2, Chenopodium glaucum L.; S3, Dysphania schraderiana (Roemer & Schultes) Mosyakin & Clemants; S4, Peganum multisectum (Maxim.) Bobrov; S5, Plantago depressa Willd.; S6, Chelidonium majus L.; S7, Hypecoum leptocarpum Hook. f. et Thoms.; S8, Lepidium apetalum Willd.; S9, Fragaria orientalis Lozinsk.; S10, Artemisia argyi Lévl. et Van.; S11, Thermopsis lanceolata R. Br..
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