When working with severely degraded soil (e.g. mine tailings or contaminated sites), plants can be used for phytoremediation where seeded or planted species can stabilize or uptake soil contaminants. Establishing vegetation on severely degraded sites will also result in increased soil organic matter and nutrient content, however, plants (such as sedges, which typically can handle low pH) must be selected to survive such harsh conditions as saline or acidic soils. Managers should be strategic in their restoration approach and use a variety of techniques when possible. For example, liquid gypsum can be used to remove salts and soften hard, compacted soils, while compost application has been shown to reduce toxicity of contaminated soils. The addition or cultivation of native biological soil crusts (thin layer of lichen-bryophyte microbial communities on the soil surface) can also enhance plant community establishment as these crusts are critically important to soil structure and function . Finally, planting plugs, rather than seeding, can be an effective way to inoculate soil with beneficial organisms that are living in the container soil.
- EPA citizen's guide to phytoremediation
- EPA citizen’s guide to activated carbon treatment
- EPA citizen’s guide to ecological revitalization
- EPA tips for growing gardens in urban soils
- EPA guide to the use of soil amendments for remediation, revitalization, and reuse
- Revegetating landfills and waste containment areas factsheet from the EPA
- Innovative uses of compost