Early succession on slag compared to urban soil: A slower recovery

Autoři: Heng-Xing Zou aff001;  Alison E. Anastasio aff002;  Catherine A. Pfister aff001
Působiště autorů: Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America aff001;  Program on the Global Environment, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(12)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224214


Slag, waste from the steel-making process, contains large amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron and other heavy metals. Because of its composition, high pH and low water retention ability, slag is considered inhospitable to plants. Nevertheless, the spontaneously generated plant communities on slag are surprisingly diverse, but the assembly and structure of such communities are poorly studied. Previous studies suggest reduced rates of succession due to low growth rate and slow accumulation of topsoil. To investigate whether slag communities display similar patterns, we used two former industrial sites on the South Side of Chicago, IL, both with high pH (8–9.2) sand content (80%) and calcium concentration (> 9000 ppm). We removed all vegetation from both slag and non-slag plots to test whether recovery differed over one growing season (4 months). To directly assess plant growth, selected focal species were planted on both sites and harvested. We show that recovery from removal differed at slag and non-slag sites: the recruitment process on slag, measured by percent vegetative cover and number of species in plots, was significantly slower at 6–8 weeks of the manipulation and beyond, suggesting a potential stage-dependent effect of slag on plant growth. Certain slag plots recorded less cover than non-slag plots by >30% at maximum difference. Functional trait analysis found that graminoid and early successional species preferentially colonized slag. Overall, slag plots recovered more slowly from disturbance, suggesting a slow succession process that would hinder natural recovery. However, slag also has the potential to serve as plant refugia, hosting flora of analogous habitats native to the area: one of our industrial sites hosts nearly 80% native species with two species of highest Floristic Quality Index (10). Restoration efforts should be informed by the slow process of natural recovery, while post-industrial sites in urban areas serve as potential native plant refugia.

Klíčová slova:

Community structure – Conservation science – Ecological succession – Habitats – Plant communities – Plant growth and development – Plants – Species diversity


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