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TitlePlant community environment and land-use data from oil sands reclamation and reference wetlands Alberta 2007-2009
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsRooney, R. C., Bayley S. E., & Raab D.
Date Published10/2011
PublisherEcological Archives
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsaquatic vegetation, chemistry, naphthenic acids, nutrients, physical properties, salinity, sodicity, UofA, wetlands

Our goal was to evaluate the success of wetland reclamation efforts on oil sands mining company lease-holdings in Alberta, Canada. Already, 60200 ha of land have been disturbed by mining, and an additional 419800 ha will be mined in the future. Wetland reclamation efforts have been underway for 35 years, and current mine closure plans call for the construction of 15840 ha of wetland habitat. There are, however, no accepted criteria by which the Alberta Government can evaluate constructed wetlands. We employed the reference condition approach, comparing reclamation wetlands to appropriate natural analogues with plants as bioindicators of wetland condition. The data set includes 74 wetlands, spanning a range in salinity, nutrient levels, size, and degree of human disturbance. Reclamation wetlands include those contaminated with oil sands tailings (oil sands process affected, OSPA, n = 13) and those free from tailings (oil sands reference, OSREF, n = 12). In contrast, some natural wetlands are exposed to agricultural impacts (AG, n = 12), but the majority represent our least-disturbed condition (reference wetlands, REF, n = 37). The data set includes species relative abundance from plant communities in the wet meadow, emergent, and open-water vegetation zones. In addition, we measured water and sediment chemistry variables and physical variables to quantify local environmental conditions. We also quantified land use surrounding 45 of the wetlands in a series of nested buffers ranging from 300 m to 2000 m from the edge of each wetland's open-water zone. This data set represents the most comprehensive, publicly available data on reclamation wetlands from the lease areas of the two largest oil sands mining companies. It may be used to investigate changes in wetland plant community composition along both natural and human-caused environmental gradients, including contamination by oil sands mine tails. The data could also inform studies into the effects of surrounding land use on wetland plants and local-level environmental conditions. Information about reclamation wetlands could serve as a basis for tracking reclamation trajectories over time, whereas information about reference wetlands could be used to characterize natural variability in plant communities in shallow open-water wetlands from the Boreal Plains ecoregion.



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Alberta oil sands

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