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University of Stellenbosch (2008)

ALTERATION OF THE SOIL MANTLE BY STRIP MINING IN THE NAMAQUALAND STRANDVELD

Prinsloo, H.P.

Titre : ALTERATION OF THE SOIL MANTLE BY STRIP MINING IN THE NAMAQUALAND STRANDVELD

Auteur : Prinsloo, H.P.

Université de soutenance : University of Stellenbosch

Grade : Master 2008

Résumé partiel
The purpose of this study was to investigate and identify the occurrence of specific soil properties that may be important for vegetation functioning and the possible effect of the loss of or changes in these properties on rehabilitation success on the sandy coastal plains of the West Coast, South Africa. The study area covered approximately 9 400 ha on the Namaqualand coast in the vicinity of Brand-se-Baai (31º18’S 17º54’E), approximately 350 km north of Cape Town and 70 km north-west of the nearest town, Lutzville. A soil survey was done to reveal the presence of important pedological features. The 20 soil profiles surveyed are situated within six vegetation communities. Pedological features such as surface water repellency, permeable apedal subsurface horizons, subsurface impediments such as cemented (calcrete or dorbank) hardpans and significantly more clayey (cutanic, luvic) horizons were identified. A comparative study between rehabilitated and natural soils indicates that mining operations result in the formation of saline sand tailings, stripped of a large portion of the clay and organic matter fraction. The natural leaching of solutes, over a period of 25 months, is sufficient to lower salinity of the tailings to levels comparable to natural soils. This leaching can also results in lowering of soil fertility. Removal of the dorbank and the dense neocutanic horizon in the western side of the mine, loss of topographical features such as small dune systems and heuweltjies, destruction of natural soil profile morphology and the lowering of organic carbon and clay plus silt fraction can have detrimental effects on attempts at rehabilitation of this area to a natural condition similar to that which preceded the mining operation. Infiltration fingering and deep percolation results in the development of an aquifer below the reach of shallow-rooted desert shrubs. A method of water acquisition by vegetation through water distillation is investigated as a possible solution to the apparent discontinuum between the shallow root systems and deeper-lying aquifer.

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