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Abstract Detail



Ecological Section

House, Melissa [1], Vitt, Dale H. [2], Glaeser, Lilyan [3], Hartsock, Jeremy [2], Ebbs, Stephen [3].

The challenge of constructing peatland reclamations: The effect of soil moisture and sodium concentration on plant community establishment.

To reclaim Alberta’s land affected by oil sands surface mining, a new landscape must be designed and constructed. The mining process removes meters of overburden, the naturally occurring plants and soil, to access the underlying bitumen (i.e. oil sands). Reclamation landscapes are then constructed on top of tailings in-pits containing sterile, saline sand and water. Sandhill Watershed, located at Syncrude Canada’s East In-Pit, was constructed with a 0.5 m thick layer of mineral soil on top of tailings sand intended to slow the upwelling of saline water. The watershed includes seven upland hills which drain into a 17 ha fen which slopes toward the center. Within the fen there is a 0.5 m layer of peat on top of the mineral soil. In 2012, twenty research plots were established throughout the fen. In July of 2014, a vegetation survey was conducted of the plots and surrounding area, and water samples were collected to measure sodium concentration. Three years after the wet up of Sandhill fen, wet and dry zones have developed, and areas with increased sodium and calcium concentrations in the pore water, termed ‘hot spots’. Sodium concentration has increased 55% from 2013 to 2014 across the fen. As of 2014, soil moisture level is the driving force affecting the plant community composition. Elevated sodium concentrations have not yet had an effect. Dry areas are characterized by higher weed cover, while wet areas have higher cover of wetland volunteers. Calamagrostis canadensis is the dominant species in most of the dry plots, while Carex aquatilis dominates moderately wet plots. Very wet areas characterized by more than 20 cm standing water are dominated by aquatic vegetation, most abundant of which is Typha latifolia, and open water. At this time, we conclude that soil moisture rather than sodium concentration, despite the presence of hot spots, is the most important factor affecting the establishment of an early successional peatland community. Reclamations must be designed as flat, moderately wet systems with limited water table fluctuation. Areas that become too dry are colonized by a thick mat of Calamagrostis canadensis, and flooded areas allow for the establishment and dominance of Typha latifolia.


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1 - Southern Illinois University, Plant Biology, 1125 Lincoln Drive, MC 6509, Carbondale, IL, 62901, USA
2 - Southern Illinois University, Plant Biology, Carbondale, IL, 62901, USA
3 - Southern Illinois University, 1125 Lincoln Drive, MC 6509, Carbondale, IL, 62901, United States

Keywords:
reclamation
Peatland
Community Assembly
Soil Moisture
Sodium concentration.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 21
Location: Salon 17/18/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Monday, July 27th, 2015
Time: 2:15 PM
Number: 21004
Abstract ID:428
Candidate for Awards:None


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