Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Type

Publishable Paper

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Interdisciplinary Studies

Committee Chair

Robert Pal

First Advisor

Martha Apple

Second Advisor

Jeanne Larson


Interest in ecological restoration of mining impacted areas, as opposed to traditional reclamation practices, has been increasing in recent years. Holistic ecological restoration is preferable to traditional reclamation practices as it provides better ecological function, biodiversity, and human enjoyment. However, legacy effects of mining, such as metals contamination and poor growing substrates, has hampered restoration efforts and further, there is little research on primary succession of these novel ecosystems. There is also scant information on many native plant species responses to contamination.

This study focuses on developing plant-contaminant relationships to guide restoration planting decisions. We look at Butte, MT, an area severely impacted by mining operations for over 100 years. Many plant species have spontaneously colonized this contaminated environment, and we show that low pH and elevated levels of Zn are limiting factors to plant growth and we present new information showing Cu as a driver for exotic species invasion. Many native plant species such as Agrostis scabra, Oryzopsis hymenoides, and Mentzelia laevicaulis, are highly tolerant to a range of contaminants. This new information can be used to guide future ecological restoration projects to produce more desirable outcomes while also serving to protect human health. More research, however, should be done to investigate contaminant relationships with additional soil parameters and how they affect native plant colonization.


A publishable paper to fulfill the degree requirements for a Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies.

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