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The effect of combined ecological remediation (plant microorganism modifier) on rare earth mine wasteland

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Abstract

Due to the vegetation destruction and soil desertification caused by excessive exploitation at Ganzhou ion-type rare earth mine in the mid-1980s, it is essential to carry out ecological remediation. The symbiotic mycorrhiza formed by the developed perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) roots infected with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can significantly improve the growth and resistance of plants. In this study, the combination of symbiotic mycorrhiza and soil modifier was used to construct the ryegrass-AMF-soil modifier combined remediation technology, which achieved effective ecological remediation of soil tailings. The orthogonal experiment of soil modifier showed that the most efficient formula for ryegrass biomass, soil organic matter, soil alkaline hydrolysis, soil available phosphorus, and soil pH was 5 g/kg sepiolite, 3 g/kg chicken manure, 2 g/kg humic acid, and 2 g/kg biochar (A4B3C3D3), and chicken manure (B), humic acid (C), and biochar (D) had significant effects on the improvement of ryegrass biomass, soil organic matter, soil alkaline nitrogen, and soil available phosphorus. Sepiolite (A) had a significant improvement in soil pH. Furthermore, the AMF infection results indicated that Glomus moss (G.m.) had higher affinity with ryegrass. The T4 treatment-combined remediation using G.m. inoculation had the most significant effect on ryegrass growth; plant height increased by 39.19% compared with T1 treatment-inoculation using G.m. Under combined remediation, soil pH, organic matter, alkali nitrogen, and effective phosphorus content also significantly improved after combined treatment. Under G.m. inoculation treatment (T4 treatment), the soil nutrient content reached the three criteria of the soil nutrient grading standard.

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Acknowledgments

We also thank Prof. Zhao Zhongqiu for the guidance during the writing and modifying of the manuscript.

Funding

This study was supported by the Foundation for Public Welfare of the Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China (No.201411017).

Author information

Correspondence to Zhongqiu Zhao.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Highlights

1. Application of microorganisms in ecological remediation of rare earth tailings

2. Application of new soil amendment in ecological remediation of rare earth tailings

3. Providing a new combined remediation technology in rare earth tailings

Responsible editor: Elena Maestri

Appendix

Appendix

Supplementary material for soil amendments used in this experiment. The screening process of the modifier was as follows.

Effect of soil amendments on soil remediation

Ryegrass was used in our study to examine soil improvement effects under different experimental treatments. Ryegrass biomass was used as an effective indicator for soil improvement. Results indicated that ryegrass biomass significantly improved under the different treatments (Fig. 7). Although the improvement effects of the four amendments were noticeable, differences between the combinations of amendments existed in regulating soil properties and increasing soil nutrient content. Although an increase in biomass improved soil nutrients, the change in soil properties was also conducive to ryegrass growth. Our results indicated that the biomass change trends of each treatment were similar. Although these trends were affected by a sudden drop in temperature, the lack of a certain nutrient level in the soil and the addition of other nutrients will not increase the effects on plant growth. Analysis of variance showed that chicken manure (B), humic acid (C), and biochar (D) had significant effects on ryegrass biomass while sepiolite (A) had no significant effect. The effect these amendments had on biomass differed, having the order of influence of: chicken manure(B) > humic acid (C) > biochar (D) > sepiolite (A). Results for sepiolite indicated that treatment A4 had the largest value (1.249). There were significant differences between A4 and A1, A2, and A3, but no significant differences among A1, A2, and A3. For chicken manure, B2 recorded the largest mean value (1.225); no significant differences existed between B2 and B1 or between B3and B4. Similarly, C3 was the largest for humic acid (1.058); significant differences were present between C3, C1, and C4. No significant difference was present between C1 and C4. Results for biochar recorded treatment D3 to be the largest (1.139). Significant differences existed between D3 and D2, D4, D1, and D4; however, no significant difference was found between D2 and D4. The effects of the four amendments on ryegrass biomass were comprehensively analyzed and the optimum level combination was A4B2C3D3.

Fig. 7
figure7

Ryegrass biomass changes under different treatments

Effects of soil amendments on soil physical and chemical properties

Effect of soil ameliorants on soil pH

pH is the most basic index to measure soil acidity and alkalinity. Different treatments in our experiments had a significant influence on soil pH (Fig. 8). After soil amelioration, there were obvious differences among the different treatments. The trend of change for soil pH was from low to high. Soil pH for each treatment was higher than the control, with differences being significant. Variance analysis indicated that the order of the four factors affecting soil pH was sepiolite (A) > chicken manure (B) > humic acid (C) > biochar (D). Our results indicate that as the concentration of sepiolite increased, soil pH increased, thereby making this an important factor influencing soil pH.

Variance analysis results showed that sepiolite (A) had a significant effect on soil improvement in the mining area, while chicken manure (B), humic acid (C), and biochar (D) had no significant effect (although the degree of effect differed). For sepiolite, treatment A4 recorded the highest value (6.820), having a significant difference with A1 and A2. A1 and A3 had a significant difference and A1, A2, and A3 had no significant difference. B2 recorded the largest mean value for chicken manure (6.535). Significant differences were recorded between B2 and B1; B4, B2, and B3; and B1 and B4. C4 recorded the largest mean value for humic acid (6.442). Significant differences were recorded between C1 and C2 and between C3 and C4, but there were no significant differences between C2, C3, and C4. The largest mean value for biochar was recorded in treatment D3 (6.370). There were significant differences between D1 and D3 and between D2 and D4. No significant differences were recorded between D1 and D3 or between D2 and D4. The optimum combination of amendments to improve soil pH was: A4B2C4D3.

Fig. 8
figure8

Soil pH changes under different treatments

Effects of soil ameliorants on soil organic matter content

Soil nutrients have a direct effect on crop yield and quality, and soil organic matter content is an effective indicator of soil fertility. Soil organic matter affects the physical properties of soil, such as fertilizer effects, water content, pore size, and buffer; organic matter is also a carbon source and an energy source for soil microorganisms.

Soil organic matter content of the improved soil was higher than that of the control, with a trend of low to high (Fig. 9). Variance analysis results showed that chicken manure (B), humic acid (C), and biochar (D) had significant effects on the improvement of soil organic matter in mining area, while sepiolite (A) had no significant effect. The degree of influence between the amendments differed. As chicken manure (B), humic acid (C), and biochar (D) are rich in organic matter, these amendments had obvious effects on soil improvement. The effect of the four amendment treatments improved soil organic matter in the order of C > D > B > A.

Variance analysis showed that treatment A4 recorded the highest value for sepiolite (2.015), and that significant differences between A4 and A1 and between A2 and A3 existed. There were no significant differences among A1, A2, and A3. The greatest value for chicken manure was recorded in treatment B3(2.135), and significant differences were recorded between B3 and B1, B4, but no significant difference between B1 and B4. Results for humic acid recorded treatment C3 to have the greatest value (3.127), and the difference between C3 and C1, C2, and C3 was significant; there were no significant differences between C1, C2, and C3. D3 recorded the highest value for biochar amendment (2.197), and D3 and D4 were significantly different from D1 and D2; no significant difference was recorded between D3 and D4 or between D1 and D2. The optimum level combination of the four amendment treatments for soil organic matter was A4B3C3D3.

Fig. 9
figure9

Soil organic matter content under different treatments

Effect of soil amendment on soil alkaline nitrogen content

The main source of nitrogen in the soil was from soil alkaline nitrogen. Nitrogen from this source is easily absorbed by plants, and it is mainly in the form of ammonium nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen, amino acids, amides, and easily decomposed proteins. Alkaline nitrogen plays an important role in the growth of ryegrass, and it can have a sensitive reaction to soil nitrogen dynamics and nitrogen supply during ryegrass growth periods. The content of alkaline nitrogen in the soil is related to biomass and nitrogen uptake of the ryegrass. Results for variance analysis showed that chicken manure (B), humic acid (C), and biochar (D) had significant effects on the improvement of alkaline nitrogen in the mining area; the effect of sepiolite (A) was not significant. Our results indicate that the application of a soil amendment can significantly improve alkaline nitrogen in the soil (Fig. 10). We believe that the addition of soil amendments can increase soil pH, and an increase in soil enzyme activity promotes the activation of soil nitrogen.

Analysis of variance showed that the four amendment treatments affected soil alkaline nitrogen content in the order of D > B > A > C. Results for sepiolite recorded treatment A3 to have the highest value (44.625), and significant differences existed between A3 and A1 and A4 and between A2 and A4. There was no significant difference between A1 and A4. Chicken manure results indicated that treatment B2 had the highest value (43.750), and significant differences existed between B2 and B1, B3, and B4; no significant difference was recorded between B1, B3, and B4. C3 recorded the highest value for humic acid (37.395); there were no significant differences between C3 and C1 or between C2 and C4. Treatment D2 recorded the highest value for biochar (45.500), and D2 had significant differences with D1 and D3. There was no significant difference between D1 and D3. Our results indicate that the optimal combination of the effects of the soil amendments on soil alkaline nitrogen content was A3B2C3D2.

Fig. 10
figure10

Changes of alkaline nitrogen content in soil under different treatments

Effect of soil amendment on soil available phosphorus content

As phosphorus is fixed in the soil when it is in a null state, the effective phosphorus content of a soil can therefore be used as an important indicator for evaluating soil fertility. Phosphorus is also an important nutrient for the growth of ryegrass. Our results indicate that after the addition of the soil amendments to the mine soil, differences between treatments was significant. Soil-available phosphorus content was higher than the control, and the trend was from low to high (Fig. 11). Compared with other studies, the combination of bio-black carbon and inorganic fertilizer into red soil improved the physical and chemical properties and nutrient content of red soil. Results for analysis of variance showed that chicken manure (B), humic acid (C), and biochar (D) have significant effects on the improvement of available phosphorus in the mining area; the effect of sepiolite (A) was not significant. The order of improvement of soil-available phosphorus using the four amendments was A > B > D > C.

Analysis of variance results indicated that treatment A4 had the highest value for sepiolite (37.710), and that there was a significant difference between A4 and A1 and A3 (P < 0.05). A significant difference also existed between A1 and A2. Chicken manure results showed that treatment B3 had the highest value (32.111), and that the difference between B3and B1, B4 was significant. Differences between B2 and B3 and B1 and B4 were not significant. Treatment C3 recorded the highest values for humic acid (29.831), and no significant difference was recorded between C1, C2, and C3; the difference between C3 and other values was significant. Biochar treatments recorded D3 to have the highest value (30.363). D3 and D4 recorded significant differences with D1 and D2, and there was no significant difference between D3 and D4. Comprehensive analysis of the improvement of soil-available phosphorus using the four amendments indicated that the optimal combination was A4B3C3D3.

Fig. 11
figure11

Available phosphorus under different treatments

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Yang, Q., Zhao, Z., Hou, H. et al. The effect of combined ecological remediation (plant microorganism modifier) on rare earth mine wasteland. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-07886-2

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Keywords

  • Rare earth mine
  • Soil amendment
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Ryegrass
  • Soil fertility
  • Combined ecological remediation