Skip To Content

TitleCarbon dynamics food web structure & reclamation strategies in Athabasca oil sands wetlands (CFRAW)
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsCiborowski, J. J. H., Dixon D. G., Foote L., Liber K., & Smits J. E.
EditorsMunro, S., D.G. D., & Nimi A. J.
Pagination16 pages
Date Published10/2006
Place PublishedJasper, AB
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsecology, hydrocarbon, microbiology, model, modeling, naphthenic acids, PAH, peat, UofA, UofS, VOC, wetlands

Wetlands will make up 20-40% of the final reclamation landscape of areas surface mined for oil sands in northeastern Alberta. Over the past five years, seven mining partners and a consortium of university researchers have formed a collaborative group that has provided understanding of effects of mine tailings and process waters on wetland communities. Young constructed wetlands, especially those amended with reclamation materials quickly become productive. Having learned some biological characteristics of young and older local wetlands, we can now predict the time required for development of more natural conditions in constructed systems. We can also assess the pathways and relative environmental risk associated with the dynamics of mine process-associated constituents that are part of constructed wetlands. However, these tools have yet to be validated. We also do not know how productivity of new wetlands is maintained. Natural wetlands slowly accumulate materials (organic carbon) from algal production, aquatic plants, and influx of outside materials. Supplementing wetlands with stockpiled peat or topsoil is thought to accelerate succession and community development. Hydrocarbons present in tailings (bitumen) and process water (naphthenic acids) are initially toxic, but may ultimately serve as a surrogate source of carbon once they degrade and/or are metabolized by bacteria. The CFRAW project is documenting how tailings in constructed wetlands modify maturation leading to natural conditions in a reclaimed landscape. Our research will explain how different types of biomass are incorporated into the food web as wetlands age; how this influences community development, food web structure and complexity, and the productivity and health of fish and wildlife; and whether wetlands built with peat amendments can be expected to maintain their productivity and have the potential to ultimately become true peat lands. We will produce validated tools (calibrated indicators, risk assessments) that measure reclamation success. Ultimately we will be able to recommend the materials and strategies most effective and economical in producing a functioning reclamation landscape. The research is being combined to build a conceptual model of carbon pathways and budgets to assess how the allocation of carbon among compartments changes as newly formed wetlands mature in the boreal system.


IN: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Aquatic Toxicity Workshop October 1-4, 2006 Jasper, Alberta. Dixon D.G. S. Munro and A.J. Nimi (Eds.). Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences No. 2746. pp. 16.

Locational Keywords

Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR)

Active Link



Citation Key51764

Enter keywords or search terms and press Search

Search this site

Subscribe to the site

Syndicate content

Bookmark and Share