An Ecological Study of Colliery Waste and an Evaluation of the Role of Earthworms in its Reclamation.

Pearson, Frank (1998). An Ecological Study of Colliery Waste and an Evaluation of the Role of Earthworms in its Reclamation. MPhil thesis The Open University.



A study of the earthworm populations of a naturalised deep mined coal spoil heap was undertaken. After an initial survey of the site, the history of the tip was researched to provide background for the present condition of the area. Documentary evidence, largely in the form of maps, suggested that tipping probably ceased in or shortly after 1920, and part of the tip was altered in 1960 due to roadworks.

The physical and chemical parameters of the incipient soil were examined, using standard MAFF soil testing methods, which showed that the tip contained some plant nutrients but was mainly clay and had a low pH over most of the area. By means of plant surveys over three years, the vegetation cover was shown to reflect the change in composition of the spoil over the site.

The worm populations present in the vegetated parts of the heap were in sharp contrast to their absence in the nearby bare areas which had a lower pH. The low pH was attributed to the acid produced by the oxidation of the pyrite present in the spoil. On the altered part of the tip, pH was neutral.

Methods of ameliorating the spoil from the bare parts of the tip were assessed through experiments using Eisenia fetida and various nutrients, both with and without lime addition. These experimental trials were undertaken in plastic cylinders, which afforded the opportunity of regular inspection and photographic records of the activities of the worms and their products.

Results, under laboratory conditions, indicate that it is possible to ameliorate both the texture and low pH of weathered colliery spoil, by the application of Eisenia fetida in vegetable matter.

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