New research has found that most site restoration assessments are overlooking the impact of mining on animals, prompting a call for operators to put a greater focus on restoring animal habitats after mining.
The study, which was published last week in journal Pacific Conservation Biology, involved an international review of literature in relation to mine site restoration and found that fauna was being under-recognised in assessments of restoration success.
Lead author PhD student Sophie Cross from the ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration at Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences (CSMLS), said the research highlights the need for an increased focus on fauna monitoring and behavioural studies as a way of understanding the long-term success of mine site restoration.
“Although mining activity creates a relatively small footprint on the land, 75 per cent of active mine sites are situated on land considered to be of high conservation value.”
“Animals are often assumed to return to the area of a mine site following its closure and the return of vegetation, however, in practice restoring animal communities and biodiversity can be exceptionally challenging,” said Ms Cross.
Ms Cross said the research confirms the need for a more detailed consideration of animal communities in mine site restoration, as the common method of vegetation surveys alone may not be enough to ascertain the long-term success of restoration measures in effectively reinstating healthy, functional animal communities and ecosystems.
The study found that over a 49-year period, only 101 peer-reviewed publications included fauna as a part of mining restoration activities.
CSMLS Research supervisor and Associate Professor Bill Bateman said that while there was an urgent need to consider fauna in mine site restoration, the good news was that Australia was leading the way in this, with the bulk of such research taking place down under.
“Our study has highlighted the importance of comprehensively and representatively restoring faunal communities after mining,” Professor Bateman said.
The paper, Overlooked and undervalued: the neglected role of fauna and a global bias in ecological restoration assessments, was funded by the Australian Research Council and can be viewed online here.