Biodiversity and Environmental Conditions along Seismic Lines in the Peatlands of Northern Alberta, Canada

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Anna Dabros, Jaime Pinzon, and Quinn E. Barber

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Linear features such as seismic lines built for oil and gas exploration in northern Alberta, Canada, can have direct impacts on environmental conditions (e.g., soil moisture and thermal dynamics, and permafrost), ecosystem functions (e.g. climate regulation), and biodiversity (vegetation recovery and composition, and invertebrate diversity). Removal of vegetation to construct seismic lines in peatlands contributes to higher soil moisture compared to the adjacent ecosystem. High moisture makes soils more prone to compaction and subsidence, which further affects moisture and thermal regimes. Within permafrost regions, these impacts may contribute to permafrost thaw and damage. These factors lead to changes in species composition and hinder natural regeneration and vegetation recovery. As such, seismic lines prevail many years after construction, particularly in peatlands, and evidence suggests that they will not recover through natural regeneration and ingression alone. Additionally, edge influence extending from the seismic line into the adjacent peatland may magnify the overall linear footprint and potentially further reduce the capacity for natural regeneration. However, there is ongoing research on the potential of wildfire to “erase” seismic lines and effectively reset the system to early successional stages. We will discuss various research projects across northern Alberta, where we assess the impact of seismic lines, including edge influence, on biodiversity of plants and invertebrates, and on environmental variables. As well, we will discuss our findings on the effects of wildfire on seismic line regeneration in wetland ecosystems.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program