Question: What is the relationship of the naturally colonizing vegetation and substrate characteristics in fly ash lagoons?
Location: West lagoon, Deep Bay, a 13-ha coastal lagoon in Hong Kong in subtropical Southeast Asia.
Methods: Vegetation establishment was examined in a coal fly ash lagoon two years after its abandonment to investigate the distribution of vegetation in relationship to the chemical properties of the fly ash in the lagoon. A greenhouse experiment assessed the limits imposed on plant growth in fly ash.
Results: The fly ash was saline, slightly alkaline and very poor in organic matter and nitrogen. Ash from bare and vegetated areas differed significantly in their salinity and extractable concentrations of inorganic nitrogen and various metals. Bare ash had a significantly higher conductivity and extractable sodium, aluminum, manganese, potassium, and lead. In total 11 plant species that belonged to seven families were found growing on the fly ash; all species except the shrub Tamarix chinensis were herbaceous. Using discriminant analysis, the most important factors in distinguishing bare and vegetated ashes were conductivity and sodium. Cluster analysis of bare samples gave two distinct groups, one from the periphery of the lagoon, which had lower sodium, conductivity, organic carbon, potassium and copper, and the other from a second group that contained ashes from the central region of the lagoon. Results of the greenhouse experiment showed that the inhibition of plant growth was significantly correlated with the presence of soluble toxic elements in ash.
Conclusion: Toxicity and salinity seem to be the major limiting factors to plant establishment in fly ash, and these factors must be ameliorated for the successful reclamation of these fly ash lagoons.
Nomenclature: Anon. (2002b).