Klemow, K.M. 1984. PLANT COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT IN AN ABANDONED LIMESTONE QUARRY; A DEMOGRAPHIC ASSESSMENT. Contributed paper: Miami International Symposium on the Biosphere. Extended abstract: Proceedings of Condensed Papers (ed. by T. N. Veziroglu):61-64.

Surface mining causes localized but severe disturbances to plant and animal communities. Ecological studies of surface-mined sites have typically focused on the manipulation of the substrate and vegetation for reclamation [1, 2, 3]. Natural revegetation on such sites has been studied less often, and most of those studies have been on areas that were mined for coal and metallic ores [4, 5, 6]. Natural revegetation in abandoned limestone quarries has received little attention until recently [7, 8]. Much remains to be learned about natural revegetation in surface-mined sites, particularly in limestone quarries. Such studies could yield new insights into cost-efficient ways of reclaiming such severely disturbed sites.

To fully evaluate the distribution and abundance of plants and to detarmine the forces that lead to vegetation change, it is necessary to examine the population-level (demographic) attributes of the plant spacies [9]. Demographic studies of single plant species colonizing mined sites have been conducted [10, 11, 12]. These studies have been of 1 or 2 year duration. However, to best understand community development and to pinpoint the factors that inhibit succession on mined sites, a multi-year approach incorporating concurrent demographic analyses of several species is needed.

To that end, a five-year study was conducted in an abandoned limestone quarry near Syracuse, New York. Revegetation has preceded slowly since the site was mined in the 1920s. The quarry substrate is rocky, calcareous, infertile, and excessively drained [13]. The purposes of this study were: (1) to investigate community development in the quarry by evaluating the demography of the component species, and (2) to pinpoint those factors that have inhibited succession by relating demography to edaphic and micrometeorological conditions. To determine the effects of plant density and substrate character on plant performance, populations ware examined on two adjacent, contrasting sites: the sparse and dense sites. The plant density was greater on the dense site (Table 1) and the substrate of that site was more fertile and had a greater capacity to retain moisture [13].

Plants were periodically mapped and measured during the growing seasons of 1976-1981 within permanent quadrats on each of the two sites. The mapping procedure allowed seedling emergence, plant survival and reproduction to be evaluated. The production and fate of seeds was also determined.

The plant community on both sites was a mixture of herbaceous annuals, biennials, and perennials. The dominant species included Erucastrum gallicum (Willd.) O.E. Schulz, Melilotus alba Dear., Picris hieracioides L., Echium vulgare L., Hieracium florentinum All., and Hypericum perforatum L. Woody plants (e.g., Lonicera tatarica L. and Populus tremuloides Michx.) were scattered throughout the quarry [7], but did not occur in the quadrats.

Densities changed markedly within each year and between years due to flushes of seedling emergence and subsequent mortality. In several quarry species such as M. alba,E. gallicum and P. hieracioides, relatively large numbers of seedlings (typically >60 per m2) emerged year. However, few seedlings (<2%) of those species survived to reproduce; most mortality appeared to result from desiccation. Survival was higher during 1976, a year with abundant rain during the growing season, than during subsequent years in which droughts occurred. Survival was also higher on the dense site due to higher soil fertility, moisture availability and less extreme temperatures (see also [13, 14, 15]). Densities of those species increased during 1976 and then declined during subsequent years such that they were lorer in 1981 than in 1976.

Conversely, species such as E. vulgare and H. florentinum had higher rates of survival than the others, and rates were not markedly affected by either site conditions or by yearly variability in rainfall. Densities of thoae species increased during the study, suggesting that they are better adapted to the quarry [12, 15].

Observations and analytical models [16] indicate that the natural flora appears capable of forming a rather dense community within the guarry. Periodic droughts, extreme temperatures and infertile soils have impeded rapid development of the plant community, however. Colonization of this site appears to be temporally erratic, depending upon variability in rainfall and its influence on the individual species. Succession could be greatly facilitated by improving the water and nutrient relations of the soil and/or by irrigating during droughts.


1. Hutnick, R.J. and G. Davis (eds.). 1973. Ecology and Reclamation of Devastated Land, Gordon and Breach, New York.

2. Down, C.G. and J. Stocks. 1977. Environmental Impact of Mining. Wiley, New York.

3. Schaller, F.W., and P.W. Sutton, P.W. (eds.). 1978. Reclamation of Drastically Disturbed Lands. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin.

4. Schramm, J.R.. 1966. Plant colonization studies of black wastes from anthracite mining in Pennsylvania. Am. Philos. Soc. Trans. 56 (1).

5. Palaniappan, V.M.. 1974. Ecology of tin tailings areas: plant communities and their succession. Journal of Applied Ecology. 11: 131-150.

6. Alvarez, W., J.A. Ludwig, J.A., and K. T. Harper. 1974. Factors influencing plant colonization of mine dumps at Park City, Utah. American Midland Naturalist 92: 1-11.

7. Skaller, M.P. 1977. The ecology of natural plant colonization in a limestone quarry, In: Limestone Quarries: Responses to Land Use Pressures. In: Ferry, E.J. and N.A. Richards (coords.), pp. 40-71.

8. Davies, B.B.K. (ed.). 1982. Ecology of Quarries: The Importance of Natural Yegetation, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. Cambridge.

9. Harper, J.L. 1977. Population Biology of Plants. Academic Press. New York.

10. Antonovics, J. 1972. Population dynamics of the grass Anthoxanthum odoratum on a zinc mine. Journal of Ecology 60: 351-366.

11. Skaller, P.M.G. 1977. Plant Colonization and Soil Development in the Jamesville Limestone Quarry. Ph.D. thesis. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

12. Raynal, D.J. 1979. Population ecology of Hieracium florentinum (Compositae) in a central New York limestone quarry. Journal of Applied Ecology 16: 287-298.

13. Klemow, K.M. and D.J. Raynal. 1981. Population ecology of Melilotus alba in a limestone quarry. Journal of Ecology 69: 33-44.

14. Klemow, K.M. and D.J. Raynal. 1983. Population biology of an annual plant in a temporally variable habitat, Journal of Ecology 71: 691-709.

15. Klemow, K.M. and D.J. Raynal. 1985. Demography of two facultative biennial plant species in an unproductive habitat, Journal of Ecology 73: 147-167.

16. Klemow, K.M. 1982. Demography end Seed Biology of Monocarpic Herbs Colonizing an Abandoned Limestone.Quarry, Ph.D. thesis. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

This page posted and maintained by Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D., Biology Department, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766. (570) 408-4758, kklemow@wilkes.edu.