New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2006) 30(3): 311- 319

Plant and invertebrate assemblages on waste rock at Wangaloa coal mine, Otago, New Zealand

Research Article
C. G. Rufaut 1,*
S. Hammit 2
D. Craw 1
S. G. Clearwater 1
  1. Department of Geology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, U.S.A
*  Corresponding author

Natural regeneration on waste rock was investigated at the old Wangaloa coal mine, south-east Otago. A 450-m long waste rock stack had been created 40–50 years ago, and has had little anthropogenic intervention since. The stack is made up of a gradient of three main waste rock types, defined as ‘silt-rich’, ‘mixed’, and ‘quartz-rich’, which reflect different proportions of loess siltstone and quartz gravel conglomerate. Plant species assemblages were quantified in four 5-m2 quadrats in each waste rock type. Invertebrates were heat extracted from substrate cores (7 cm diameter; depth 5 cm) collected from quadrats over an eight-week period in spring 2003. Ordination analysis showed statistically distinct plant and invertebrate assemblages had arisen on each waste rock type. Revegetation patterns were dominated by native, woody individuals on all waste rock types, particularly manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) and kanuka (Kunzea ericoides). Plant cover on ‘silt-rich’ waste rock was four-fold that on ‘quartz-rich’ waste rock. Total numbers of invertebrates were highest on ‘quartz-rich’ waste rock, but richness greatest on ‘silt-rich’ waste rock. Collembola dominated the fauna but their numbers were proportionally greatest in poorly vegetated areas. Further work is required to explain the absence of plants and invertebrates from local areas of waste rock.