|Title||Vegetation communities in continental boreal wetlands along a salinity gradient: Implications for oil sands mining reclamation|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2009|
|Authors||Trites, M., & Bayley S. E.|
|Keywords||acidity, alkalinity, aquatic vegetation, inventory, pH, salinity, sodicity, survey, UofA, wetlands|
Oil sands mining is a major disturbance to boreal landscapes in north-eastern Alberta, Canada. Freshwater peatlands dominate the landscape prior to mining, but the post-mining reclamation landscape will have wetlands that span a salinity gradient. Little is known about the native vegetation communities in subsaline and saline marshes in the boreal region, yet these communities offer the best potential for reclamation of wetlands after oil sands mining. The overall intent of this study is to provide information on natural wetland communities along a gradient of salinities that can be used to enhance oil sands wetland reclamation. Our specific study objectives were to: (1) characterize environmental conditions of industrial and natural wetlands, (2) characterize vegetation communities (composition and diversity) in these wetlands, (3) and explore how vegetation communities (composition and diversity) may be influenced by environmental conditions. We surveyed vegetation communities and environmental variables in 25 natural boreal wetlands along a salinity gradient and in 10 industrial marshes in the oil sands mining region. We observed an electrical conductivity (EC) range of 0.5–28mScm−1 in the wetlands, indicating that salinity similar to or higher than anticipated for oil sands reclamation is naturally present in some boreal wetlands. We observed low species richness in both industrial and natural wetlands. There were 101 plant species observed in all the wetlands, with 82 species recorded in the natural wetlands and 44 species in industrial wetlands. At the plot level, richness decreased with increasing EC and pH, but increased with soil organic matter. Using Cluster Analysis and indicator species analysis we defined 16 distinct vegetation community types, each dominated by one or two species of graminoid vegetation. In general these communities resembled those of boreal or prairie marshes. Electrical conductivity, pH, and water depth were important factors correlating with community composition of the wetlands, however peat depth and soil organic content did not differ among community types. Not all community types were present in industrial wetlands, indicating that these communities may need to be planted to enhance overall diversity in future reclaimed oil sands wetlands.
|Locational Keywords|| |
northeastern Alberta, Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR)