Question: Are the biophysical conditions of abandoned limestone quarry floors and natural alvars sufficiently similar to each other for alvars to be used as a model for quarry floor restoration?
Location: Ontario, Canada.
Methods: We measured plant species frequency and environmental and soil variables in 13 abandoned limestone quarries and used ANOVA to compare them with data previously collected from seven natural alvars. We used multivariate ordinations on the quarry floor data alone and on the combined quarry floor and alvar data to determine how plant community structure was controlled by the abiotic environment in both habitats.
Results: Except for higher levels of many nutrients, the physical characteristics were similar between quarry floors and alvars. 246 plant species were found on quarry floors as compared to 283 on alvars, with 79 species in common between the two habitat types. While quarry floors supported fewer bryophytes and more exotic vascular plants compared with alvars, five alvar endemics and 24 characteristic alvar species were found to grow there. The age of the site, nutrient levels, and presence of standing water and bare rock were important factors influencing species composition in both habitats.
Conclusions: Through natural revegetation alone, the abandoned quarry floors surveyed in this study have already taken on many physical and vegetation characteristics of natural alvars. This makes alvars very suitable as the restoration goal for abandoned limestone quarries.
Nomenclature: Newmaster et al. (1998).