Biomass ash formulations as sustainable improvers for mining soil health recovery: Linking soil properties and ecotoxicity

Luís A. Mendes, Astrid Avellan, Nuno C. Cruz, Cátia Palito, Paul F.A.M. Römkens, Mónica J.B. Amorim, Luís A.C. Tarelho, Sónia M. Rodrigues*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


There is a growing need to recover degraded soils to restore their essential ecosystem services and limit damages of anthropic activities onto these systems. Safe and sustainable solutions for long-term recovery must be designed, ideally by recycling existing resources. Using ash from combustion of residual forest biomass at the pulp and paper industry is an interesting and sustainable strategy to recover mining soils. However, formulations must be found to limit the potential toxicity associated with soluble salts and chloride that ash contains. Here, we assessed the effectiveness of three field ash-based amendments for the recovery of three highly acidic soils from Portuguese abandoned mines. Three amendments were tested: an un-stabilized mixture of ash and biological sludge, granulated ash, and granulated ash mixed with composted sludge. One year after application in open field plots (in the scope of LIFE No_Waste project), soil health restoration was evaluated through (i) soil physico-chemical characterization and (ii) soil habitat functions though standardized ecotoxicological tests. This study highlights that stabilized materials provided nutrients, organic matter and alkalinity that corrected soil pH and decreased metal bioavailability, while controlling the release of soluble salts and chloride from ash. This soil improvement correlated with improved soil model organisms’ reproduction and survival. For similar amendment, the native soil properties studied (as soil native electrical conductivity) affected the level of organism response. This work provides evidence that ash stabilization, formulation and supplementation with organic matter could be sustainable strategies to restore highly degraded mining soils and to recover their ecological functions. It further highlights the importance of analyzing combined effects on soil physico-chemical properties and ecological function recovery to assess restoration strategy efficiencies in complex multi-stressor environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118165
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021


  • Combined effects
  • Ecosystem functions
  • Ecotoxicity assay
  • LIFE No_Waste Project
  • Model invertebrates
  • Nutrient recycling
  • Soil remediation


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