Ecohydrological linkages to carbon dynamics during the early development of a reclaimed landscape in Alberta, Canada

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N. Popović, R. M. Petrone, A. Green, M. Khomik, M. Strack, J.S. Price

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As wetlands comprise approximately half of the pre-disturbance landscape in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region, they have become the focus of reclamation efforts in the region. This study provides a temporal snapshot of the carbon dynamics for a 32 ha constructed fen-upland watershed. We quantified rates of gross ecosystem photosynthesis, ecosystem respiration and net ecosystem CO2 exchange for the first seven years of ecosystem development (2013-2019) using growing season measurements acquired by eddy covariance systems. Results indicate early-development carbon trends are particularly associated with the establishment of vegetation. Since planting in 2013, fen vegetation has become robust and is sedge-dominated by Carex aquatilis, Juncus balticus and Typha latifolia. The fen quickly evolved from a growing season carbon source in 2013 to a sink by 2015 (NEE of 124 g C m-2 to -229 g C m-2 ) as plant development significantly increased net CO2 uptake. Since 2015, the fen has continually remained a net CO2 sink. In the upland, tree cover (Pinus banksiana, Populus balsamifera, Populus tremuloides) has developed at a slower rate than plant cover in the fen, resulting in net carbon loss during this period (with growing season NEE fluctuating between 4.46-1.12 gC m-2 ). However, it is hypothesized that the upland is on trajectory towards become a net carbon sink as vegetation continues to mature and canopy development ensues. Assessment of the carbon-ecohydrological exchanges during development suggests the constructed system is evolving towards becoming a self-sustaining, carbon-accumulating, functional ecosystem with carbon dynamics comparable to that natural systems in the region.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program