By Christopher Barton, Michael French, Songlin Fei, Kathryn Ward, Robert Paris, Patrick Angel
In the Appalachian mountain region, the loss of the American chestnut, along with the visible scars of coal-related surface mining, have had a doubly devastating effect. However, it is in viewing these two ecological disasters together that the possibility of a solution emerges.
CONTINUEDSurface Mines as a Springboard for Restoration
The use of surface mines for chestnut reestablishment is gaining acceptance as numerous successful reforestation projects, following the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA), have been demonstrated on mine lands across Appalachia (see www.arri.osmre.gov). Reasons abound for planting chestnuts on fresh mine spoils. First, loose mine spoils reclaimed using FRA techniques have shown good growth and high survival rates for other native Appalachian hardwood species and may also be suitable for chestnuts. Second, many surface mines exhibit light and soil chemical characteristics that are similar to higher elevation and ridgetop positions where chestnuts were dominant. Third, loose mine spoils are initially devoid of vegetative competition, a hindrance to many reforestation efforts. Fourth, fresh mine spoils may initially be devoid of pathogenic microbial communities such as Phytophthora, which have hindered TACF’s breeding and restoration efforts elsewhere.