Soils constructed after mining often have low carbon (C) stocks and low quality of organic matter (OM). Cover crops are decisive for the recovery process of these stocks, improving the quality of constructed soils. Therefore, the goal of this study was to evaluate the effect of cover crops on total organic C (TOC) stocks, C distribution in physical fractions of OM and the C management index (CMI) of a soil constructed after coal mining. The experiment was initiated in 2003 with six treatments: Hemarthria altissima (T1), Paspalum notatum (T2), Cynodon dactylon (T3), Urochloa brizantha (T4), bare constructed soil (T5), and natural soil (T6). Soil samples were collected in 2009 from the 0.00-0.03 m layer, and the TOC and C stocks in the physical particle size fractions (carbon in the coarse fraction - CCF, and mineral-associated carbon - MAC) and density fractions (free light fraction - FLF; occluded light fraction - OLF, and heavy fraction - HF) of OM were determined. The CMI components: carbon pool index (CPI), lability (L) and lability index (LI) were estimated by both fractionation methods. No differences were observed between TOC, CCF and MAC stocks. The lowest C stocks in FLF and OLF fractions were presented by T2, 0.86 and 0.61 Mg ha-1, respectively. The values of TOC stock, C stock in physical fractions and CMI were intermediate, greater than T5 and lower than T6 in all treatments, indicating the partial recovery of soil quality. As a result of the better adaptation of the species Hemarthria and Brizantha, resulting in greater accumulation of labile organic material, the CPI, L, LI and CMI values were higher in these treatments, suggesting a greater potential of these species for recovery of constructed soils.
recovery of degraded areas; cover crops; carbon stocks; lability