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Meike Lemmer , Bin Xu , Maria Strack , Line Rochefort
Post-oil-mining peatland restoration aims at re-establishing crucial peatland functions, such as wildlife habitat, peat accumulation and carbon sequestration. Suitable conditions including soil moisture content near saturation via a relatively stable, near-surface water table, and abundant organic matter input are necessary to ensure the steady accumulation of peat. We evaluated the efficiency of four restoration techniques applied on two former in-situ (“in place”) oil sands well pads in the Peace River and Cold Lake Oil Sands regions in Alberta, Canada, to provide habitat to characteristic fen plant species and plant functional types. The assessed restoration techniques were 1) the complete removal of all well pad construction materials and 2) spontaneous re vegetation, 3) the partial removal of the well pad’s mineral infill and 4) the managed re-vegetation with plant seedlings of Larix laricina, Salix lutea, and Carex aquatilis. An unrestored well pad sector and 24 local reference wetlands were monitored for comparison, considering vegetation diversity, biogeochemistry, hydrology and local climatic conditions. Preliminary results show the highest plant diversity in the sectors with the mineral fill scraped down and levelled closest to the adjacent fen ecosystem, resulting in the water table level being closest to the surface. Lowest diversity was found in sectors of seedlings introduction, and the complete removal of all well pad construction materials. Findings suggest that the closer the surface is levelled with the surrounding ecosystems, and more seamless the hydrologic connection is re-established between restored and undisturbed sectors, the faster fen initiating conditions will establish and desired characteristic plant species will migrate.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program