The adaptability, distribution, ecological function and restoration application of biological soil crusts on metal tailings: A critical review

Liao K., Chen C., Ye W., Zhu J., Li Y., She S., Wang P., Tao Y., Lv A., Wang X. & Chen L.
Science of the Total Environment
927: 172169 [13 p.]
A large amount of metal tailings causes many environmental issues. Thus, the techniques for their ecological restoration have garnered extensive attention. However, they are still in the exploratory stage. Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are a coherent layer comprising photoautotrophic organisms, heterotrophic organisms and soil particles. They are crucial in global terrestrial ecosystems and play an equal importance in metal tailings. We summarized the existing knowledge on BSCs growing on metal tailings. The main photosynthetic organisms (cyanobacteria, eukaryotic algae, lichens, and mosses) of BSCs exhibit a high heavy metal(loid) (HM) tolerance. BSCs also have a strong adaptability to other adverse conditions in tailings, such as poor structure, acidification, and infertility. The literature about tailing BSCs has been rapidly increasing, particularly after 2022. The extensive literature confirms that the BSCs distributed on metal tailings, including all major types of metal tailings in different climatic regisions, are common. BSCs perform various ecological functions in tailings, including HM stress reduction, soil structure improvement, soil nutrient increase, biogeochemical cycle enhancement, and microbial community restoration. They interact and accelerate revegetation of tailings (at least in the temperate zone) and soil formation. Restoring tailings by accelerating/inducing BSC formation (e.g., resource augmentation and inoculation) has also attracted attention and achieved small-scale on-site application. However, some knowledge gaps still exist. The potential areas for further research include the relation between BSCs and HMs, large-scale quantification of tailing BSCs, application of emerging biological techniques, controlled laboratory experiments, and other restoration applications.
Monday, 03 June 2024 10:37