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Remediation from the Ground Up

When working in the field, it doesn't take much space to allow for a variety of different environmental factors to occur. A small field or a right-away a mile long can have several ecological subsystems that make it up and because of that wide variety of variables, such as pH, soil content, naturally occurring plant species etc., generating a response plan can prove difficult. When looking at an area of exposed earth, the first priority is to find a way to get something growing in that ground as soon as possible. If that ground is left bare, the risk of erosion is high, as well as the multitude of negative effects that can occur when bare soil is exposed to the elements. It doesn't take long for that soil to begin to repel water, any organic life that once lived in that soil will cease to exist, and if there are any impacts related to the site getting seeds to germinate will be that much more difficult.

The traditional response to situations such as these, where bare soil needs to be filled quickly, has been a one size fits all approach. This type of response may be helpful to some areas but because of the irregular nature of soil itself, a blanket response will exacerbate the problem in other areas. Something that we have found to be incredibly valuable in our replanting process of remediation projects is to know as much as possible all that we can about the soil content of the site that we're working on. The soil content on a macro level, as well as the various subsystems that make up the project so that we can best tailor amendments and plant species to those areas to ensure the highest chance of success. And while this requires a larger investment of time in those beginning stages of testing and cataloging and studying the site, it can allow for a higher rate of germination, as well as a higher rate of those plants surviving enough to become established and then on to become self-sustaining. Because that is the goal. We don’t just need plants in the ground, we need those plants to survive.

A very simple and relatively straightforward preparation is to thoroughly mulch any areas that plan to be reseeded. This is beneficial in helping to retain water in the soil if there are no plants growing yet, as well as prevent as much as possible any of the water within the soil being lost through evapotranspiration. However, when working with soils that are already in a state of being severely depleted of available nutrients or impacted with something that makes most plant species unable to survive, any addition of mulch that will then compete with what's left in the soil is not ideal.

We began to investigate various amendments that we could use to apply broadly alongside our mulch that could then be incorporated into the soil that would help mitigate that issue. There are many different options out there for commercial use that provided varying results, but some of our favorites are from a company called Bio Lynceus. They produce products that assist those in wastewater treatment, soil remediation, and agriculture. One product in particular that we had great success with is called Seaweed Cream. It's derived from a cold processed seaweed and supports plant growth and root development. Seaweed on its own can be used as a broadly applied mulch on smaller scales, such as private home gardens. It doubles as a mulch on the surface to protect the soil from sun and helps to retain water, as well as a valuable source of nutrients as the seaweed breaks down and begins to incorporate with the soil. On a larger scale, such as the projects that we work on, having a product that is water soluble, easily transportable, and easily applied that has the same benefits was a perfect alternative.

Consistent application of amendments, paired with thorough and extensive testing, allowed us to see trends in the chemistry of the soil that we were trying to remediate and allowed us to plan accordingly, as opposed to trying to make a single solution solve a multitude of problems. This ultimately saved us time and resources, because by investing in the health of the microbial communities that lived in the soil and are an integral part of the plant communities that then grow in that's oil, our reseeding efforts that followed were that much more successful. That's not to say that we no longer face issues with areas of little to no germination, but our projects start because the damage of the impact is has already occurred. The soil is already in its worst condition. With every amendment and technique that we then apply to the soil will only work to improve it. Time is not the enemy in remediation projects. Rebuilding the health of our soils from the ground up is an integral part of our remediation process, and every day is an opportunity for improvements.


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