COS 22-5 - Lessons in establishing plant communities on constructed fens for oil sands mine reclamation

Monday, August 7, 2017: 2:50 PM
B115, Oregon Convention Center
Andrea Borkenhagen1, David J. Cooper1, Dale H. Vitt2 and Melissa House3, (1)Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, (2)Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, (3)Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL

Oil sands mines in Alberta, Canada remove entire surface landscapes, the vast majority of which are fen peatlands. After years of marsh wetland mitigation, regulators mandated for producers to begin testing methods to reclaim peatlands following mine closure. Two pilot fen projects were constructed to mimic natural regional fen ecosystems and consider the constraints of a post-mining landscape. Though the two designs differed, similarities emerged and the vegetation data was synthesized to extract commonalities and inform future fen reclamation efforts.


Of all the introduced and opportunistically established species in both fens, the most abundant species is Carex aquatilis, but wetter and drier communities of undesirables have established that are dominated by Typha latifolia and Calamagrostis canadensis respectively. Ptychostomum pseudotriquetrum moss established across a wide range of water levels regardless of vascular cover, whereas the desirable introduced moss Tomentypnum nitens persisted only under Juncus balticus cover and where the water table was less than 10 cm from the surface. These results will be used to refine reclamation methods that optimize environmental conditions and plant introduction strategies to produce fen communities with high production, diversity, and resilience.