Biodiversity responses to restoration of linear features associated with oil and gas exploration in boreal peatlands of western Canada

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Jaime Pinzon

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Exploration of Alberta’s oilsands has fragmented much of the boreal forest in the Province, with thousands of kilometers of linear features (mainly seismic lines) constructed. Seismic line restoration has become important for the oil and gas industry, with treatments mostly focused on reducing line use and access. Mounding and tree planting is a commonly used treatment in peatlands, as mounds provide higher ground, improving seedling establishment/survival, increasing topography, and reducing wildlife and human traffic. Mounding/planting has broader implications on local recovery and ecological properties than those related to functional restoration, which can be useful to assess restoration success. We evaluated habitat conditions and biodiversity (ground invertebrates and plants) three years post-treatment application in relation to untreated lines and the adjacent forest. Results show higher ground water content on the line compared to the adjacent forest, with no differences between treated and untreated lines. However, higher natural regeneration was observed on mounds compared to untreated lines and the adjacent forest. Plant richness was similar among habitats; however, invertebrate richness was lowest on mounded sites. Invertebrate abundance and plant percent cover was lowest in mounded sites. Species composition of plants and invertebrates was different among habitats (forest, mounded vs. untreated), with mounded sites the most different. Although restoration has influenced habitat conditions relative to those of untreated lines, it is still too soon in the recovery trajectory to evaluate whether mounding improves habitat conditions compared to those in the reference forest. Thus, longer term monitoring is required to better assess restoration success.

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Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration