Revegetation of a barren rare earth mine using native plant species in reciprocal plantation: effect of phytoremediation on soil microbiological communities

  • Lin Zhang
  • Wen Liu
  • Shenghong Liu
  • Peng Zhang
  • Chanjuan Ye
  • Hong LiangEmail author
Research Article


Over-exploration of rare earth elements causes soil desertification and environmental degradation. However, the restoration of rare earth mine tailings requires the recovery of both vegetation and soil microbiota. Accordingly, the present study aimed to compare the efficacy of restoring mine tailings using organic compost and native plants (Miscanthus sinensis, Pinus massoniana, Bambusa textilis, or a mixture of all three). After three years, the mixed plantation harbored tenfold greater plant richness than that in the barren land. Among these, M. sinensis played a dominant role across all restored areas. The microbial communities of the soils were assessed using high-throughput 16S rDNA gene sequencing. A total of 34,870 16S rDNA gene sequences were obtained and classified into 15 bacterial phyla and 36 genera. The dominant genus across all the restored soils was Burkholderia, and the bacterial diversity of restored soils was greater than that of soils from either unrestored or natural (unexploited) areas, with the M. sinensis plantation yielding the greatest diversity. The effects of phytoremediation were mainly driven by changes in nutrient and metal contents. These results indicate that M. sinensis significantly improves phytoremediation and that mixed planting is ideal for restoring the soils of abandoned rare earth mines.


Rare earth mine Soil restoration Revegetation Soil chemical property Soil bacterial community 



We thank Qing X. Li and Bo Fu from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Muhammad Qasim Shahid from South China Agricultural University, for their comments on this manuscript.

Funding information

This work was funded by project No. 2016A020207004 supported by the Sci-Tech department of Guangdong Province and the National Sci-Tech support plan from MOST of China.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Agriculture and BiologyZhongkai University of Agriculture and EngineeringGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.College of Resources and Environmental SciencesChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Tropical Agriculture and ForestryGuangdong Agriculture Industry Business Polytechnic CollegeGuangzhouChina

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