Phenolic acids as bioindicators of fly ash deposit revegetation
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The floristic composition, the abundance, and the cover of pioneer plant species of spontaneously formed plant communities and the content of total phenolics and phenolic acids, as humus constituents, of an ash deposit after 7 years of recultivation were studied. The restoration of both the soil and the vegetation on the ash deposits of the "Nikola Tesla-A" thermoelectric power plant in Obrenovac (Serbia) is an extremely slow process. Unfavorable physical and chemical characteristics, the toxicity of fly ash, and extreme microclimatic conditions prevented the development of compact plant cover. The abundance and cover of plants increased from the central part of the deposit towards its edges (ranging from 1-80%). Festuca rubra L., Crepis setosa Hall., Erigeron canadensis L., Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop., Calamagrostis epigeios (L.) Roth., and Tamarix gallica L. were the most abundant species, thus giving the highest cover. Humus generated during the decomposition process of plant remains represents a completely new product absent in the ash as the starting material. The amount of total phenolics and phenolic acids (38.07-185.16 mu g/g of total phenolics and 4.12-27.28 mu g/g of phenolic acids) in fly ash increased from the center of the deposit towards its edges in correlation with the increase in plant abundance and cover. Ash samples contained high amounts of ferulic, vanillic, and p-coumaric acid, while the content of both p-hydroxybenzoic and syringic acid was relatively low. The presence of phenolic acids indicates the ongoing process of humus formation in the ash, in which the most abundant pioneer plants of spontaneously formed plant communities play the main role. Phenolic compounds can serve as reliable bioindicators in an assessment of the success of the recultivation process of thermoelectric power plants' ash deposits.