Restoration of a Sphagnum-dominated peatland disturbed by a road: plant establishment on introduced peat substrate is driven by restoration techniques.

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Christine Isabel, Marie-Claire LeBranc, Line Rochefort

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In Northern Alberta, an important anthropogenic disturbance of peatlands is the in situ mining from deep oil sands deposit. Extensive infrastructure for bitumen extraction such as well pads and a vast access road network results in the degradation and fragmentation of habitat, the decrease in biodiversity, the modification of water circulation patterns and the alteration of the physicochemical integrity. This research aims to re-establish typical bog vegetation for a bog disturbed by an access road for in situ bitumen extraction. Site restoration began with removal of the top layer of mineral soil from the road and replacement with a peat layer (20cm, 50cm and 75cm). Diaspores were introduced over the entire road surface and phosphorus fertilizer was spread on half of it. The objectives of this research are to assess the impact of peat thickness and fertilization on plant communities. There is no significant effect of fertilization on early plant establishment. Principal component analysis on vegetation data distinguished three plant communities. Two plant communities were found on the restored area and both were different from the plant community of the undisturbed adjacent peatland. The restored section with 75cm layer of peat exhibited a higher cover of wetland species than the 20cm and 50cm sections. Differences between restored sections could be explained by asynchronous storage time of added peat and by different time gaps between soil amendments and vegetation introduction. This study highlights the importance of best management practices and the need to test germination of stockpiled peat before restoration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program