EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Descriptors for soil development in a water limited environment of a rehabilitated open-cast mine site in south-east Australia

Evelin Pihlap1,2, Franziska Bucka1, Tiia Haberstok1, Emily Scholes3,4, Tabea Klör5, Thomas Baumgartl6, and Ingrid Kögel-Knabner1,7
Evelin Pihlap et al.
  • 1Chair of Soil Science, Research Department Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Technical University of Munich, Freising, Germany (
  • 2Department of Geography, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
  • 3EnivroMicroBio Pty Ltd, Victoria, Australia
  • 4Monash University, Clayton, Victoria Australia
  • 5Department of Geography, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Marburg, Germany
  • 6Geotechnical and Hydrogeological Engineering Research Group (GHERG), Federation University Australia, Churchill, Australia
  • 7Institute for Advanced Study, Technical University of Munich, Garching, Germany

Soil structure and soil organic matter (SOM) are closely linked characteristics describing the status of development of a soil. Their interactions affect various physical, chemical and biological soil properties and functions like water holding capacity, water infiltration, composition of the carbon pool and microbial activity. Rehabilitated soils from post mining fields are considered to have poor soil structure, low nutrient content and microbial activity. Besides disturbed soil properties, in Australia soil rehabilitation success is also influenced by climatic conditions like high evaporation rate which affects rebuilding of soil system functions. Although there are several studies looking into the development of soil properties post rehabilitation in temperate climates, the intertwined development of soil structure and quality and quantity of SOM during soil formation under water stressed environment is not clear until now.

In this study we used a space-for-time chronosequence approach in the rehabilitated open-cast mines at Yallourn Mine (Victoria, Australia) to elucidate the development of soil structure and soil organic matter after rehabilitation in a water limited environment. We selected five different fields with different rehabilitation ages (40, 22, 11, 4 and 3 years) and two mature soils that are used as grazing land. In each field we sampled 6 independent locations with stainless steel cylinders (100 cm3) at two depths of 0-4 cm and 10-14 cm.  All samples were analysed for bulk density, organic carbon (OC) and total nitrogen (TN) concentration. Selected samples were wet sieved into four aggregate size classes of <63 µm, 63-200 µm, 200-630 µm and >630 µm. For detecting OC contribution to aggregate formation, OC and TN was measured from each aggregate size fraction. This system is temporarily highly dynamic and shows different developments for bulk density and SOM stocks, which had an effect on the structure of the microbial communities. Along the space-for-time chronosequence we can observe soil structure formation with ageing and a build-up of a OM, which has a positive effect on recovering soil functionality.

How to cite: Pihlap, E., Bucka, F., Haberstok, T., Scholes, E., Klör, T., Baumgartl, T., and Kögel-Knabner, I.: Descriptors for soil development in a water limited environment of a rehabilitated open-cast mine site in south-east Australia, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-8114,, 2020


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