Quantifying the microbial response of biosolid reclaimed mines under simulated drought conditions.

The impacts of climate change are becoming more evident, as revealed by the increased frequency of unprecedented temperatures and drought conditions worldwide. These atypical conditions are already challenging the established and resilient ecosystems but can be catastrophic to reclaimed ecosystems unprepared to withstand the capricious climate.

Problem Statement— Restored sites such as reclaimed mines are vulnerable to changing climates as their resilience under harsher climates is still unknown. Catastrophic failure of reclamation is possible if reclamation strategies do not incorporate future climatic scenarios or resilience components. Biosolids have improved plant productivity and diversity in reclaimed mines as a nutrient-rich amendment, potentially indicating improved ecosystem resilience. However, their impact on the microbial community functions under drought conditions remains poorly studied. The microbial community is an integral component of a soil ecosystem, maintaining control over various soil functions. Therefore, quantifying the microbial response in biosolid-reclaimed sites under simulated drought conditions can improve our understanding of ecological resilience in reclaimed ecosystems.

Solution—We have a project running since 2020 at a mine in B.C., disentangling the effects of biosolid-driven mine reclamation on the plant community under simulated drought conditions. Our proposed project will leverage the experimental design to study the microbial response by sampling the existing experimental plots. We will use a multi-faceted approach using state-of-the-art sequencing, biochemical, and geochemical tools to examine microbial responses in biosolid reclaimed sites. The result will provide environmental managers with a better understanding of biosolid-driven reclamation and enable incorporating climate-change scenarios in future reclamation strategies.

Benefits— In the short term, the research will better understand the microbial response to biosolid reclamation to climate change. The evidence from the study will provide another tool for environmental managers to better plan mitigation strategies for climate change-driven crises. In the long term, this research will be instrumental in manipulating microbial communities and functions in biosolids to suit the unique needs of different mines. The results will have implications for other degraded or partially degraded ecosystems, such as grasslands and croplands, that experience detrimental effects of climate change and anthropogenic activities.