British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Native species in reclamation of disturbed lands Bell, Marcus A. M.; Meidinger, Dellis Vern, 1953- 1977

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st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  143  NATIVE SPECIES IN RECLAMATION OF DISTURBED LANDS  DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY University of Victoria Victoria, B.C. Marcus A.M. Bell Del V. Meidinger March 1977  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  144  NATIVE SPECIES IN RECLAMATION OF DISTURBED LANDS ABSTRACT When reclamation seeks to reintegrate disturbed lands into the natural landscape, use of native species could have decided ecological, economic and aesthetic advantages.  As products of millions of  years of adaption to varied environments, native species generally require no maintenance, are self perpetuating, and are visually integrated with surrounding landscapes.  In the practical sense,  native seed is presently unavailable commercially.  Therefore,  research is necessary on the collection of native seed and cuttings, the storage and treatment of seed for dormancy breaking and germination, the time of seeding and methods of propagation for maximum seedling establishment, the growth on different materials and sites, the selection of proper species combinations (including agronomics), and on the practical and cost aspects of commercial production.  By  observation in nature, and by lab experiments, native species should be evaluated for their role in succession, erosion control capability, contribution to soil humus, palatability for wildlife and visual integrating capabilities. Initially, research priority should be given to species suitable for difficult sites where agronomic species are relatively unsuccessful or costly to maintain (e.g. high elevations, steep slopes, dry areas). The immediate goal of this research would be the production of a catalogue of native species suitable for reclamation of disturbed lands in British Columbia.  This catalogue would contain all avail-  able information on areas, sites, conditions, etc. for which species would be suitable as well as information on species germination, propagation, and early maintenance requirements. Establishment of an independent Reclamation Research Institute is proposed to fund and coordinate this research in connection with other aspects of reclamation in the province.  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  145  NATIVE SPECIES IN RECLAMATION OF DISTURBED LANDS In this paper we set forth arguments favoring the use of native species in reclamation of mined lands in British Columbia, mention problems this might entail, research which should be done, and where, how it might best be coordinated and suggest how this information might most readily be made available to reclaimers. Before going further, some distinction should be made between native and agronomic species.  An agronomic species is a plant  selected and bred for specific agricultural purposes such as forage, hay, or cover crops.  These species are genetically  uniform and require intensive management for vigorous growth and reproduction. Native species occur naturally within a region and have adapted through millenia to local climates and habitats. They are genetically diverse self-perpetuating species requiring no maintenance to grow vigourously in their native habitats. To date, most reclamation has relied on agronomic species because seed is readily available in bulk from commercial producers at low cost.  Where the reclamation objective is to return the land to  agricultural production, agronomic species are the logical choice. However, when fertilization and/or irrigation are cut off, "instant green" agronomics often do very poorly.  Two such sites  are the Similkameen Mining operation at Princeton and Placid Oil's Bull River Copper site. When the reclamation objective is to re-integrate the site into the natural landscape, a durable, self-maintaining plant cover of native species has obvious benefits.  Nature has been reclaiming  drastically devastated areas with native species since time began. Learning how she does this might save a few dollars. Unlike Europe (e.g. Schiechtl, 1973) and apart from the traditional  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  146  efforts of forestry and horticulture, relatively little thought has been given to using native species for reclaiming disturbed lands. In Alberta and British Columbia seed of a number of native grasses and forbs has been collected and germination and field tests made by mining companies or their consultants.  These tests are basically in  an early stage of development, so relatively little information has been accumulated.  For example, Kaiser Resources, a leader in the  reclamation of coal mined lands in British Columbia, set up test plots of native grasses and forbs only last summer and started germination tests this winter, although they have done work with native shrubs for a number of years.  Their research in native  shrubs has included propogation by seeds and cuttings and field trials of certain species. Native shrubs have been used on a limited scale for reclamation attempts and erosion control by British Columbia's Fish and Wildlife Branch, Parks Branch, and Department of Highways.  Horticulturalists use some native shrubs for landscaping,  but ridiculous as it sounds, the available commercial stock of B.C. natives apparently comes only from European growers. Some reclamation trials with native grasses and forbs have been done in the arctic regions of the Northwest Territories, and in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Idaho, and Montana (Nishimura, 1974; Farmer et al, 1976; Harrington, 1946).  Arctagrostis latifolia (Polar Grass)  was used in trials in the Northwest Territories and although after two years its performance was inferior to the agronomics used, after seven years it was many times more successful (Hernandez, 1973). Many native species have been tried or suggested in western North America (see Appendix) and a preliminary literature review shows that a fair amount of information is available on test trials and germination of native shrubs and herbs. One of the reasons for the relative lack of both research and reclamation trials with native species is the lack of readily available seed or nursery stock. Also, in many situations, agronomic species either  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  147  do well, or are preferred, depending on ultimate land use goals. Agronomic seed is readily available at low cost, so in such situations there is little incentive to consider use of native species.  On the other hand, agronomic species generally do not do  well in harsh environments such as the alpine tundra.  In most  lowland situations where intensive management such as fertilization and/or irrigation is eliminated, agronomics eventually die out. Native species can play an important role in these situations and have a number of ecological, economic and aesthetic advantages. In harsh environments such as the alpine tundra native species have evolved and adapted to the normal alpine conditions as well as to the extremes.  Thousands of years of evolution have resulted in  diverse genetic populations of each species that are able to survive harsher than normal alpine conditions because of adaptations to cold and frost during the growing season.  Native species in other  environments have similarly evolved and adapted to both normal and extreme conditions of their particular habitats. Conversely, agronomic species (originally selected from a native species stock somewhere) are propagated for specific agricultural purposes. Different varieties of these agronomics are available, but these are still basically selected for agricultural use, and continued maintenance is necessary to keep a good cover for any extended period of time.  In alpine or other non-agricultural  extreme areas they will generally not go to seed, or will rapidly die if fertilization is stopped.  For these reasons agronomic  species usually do not have the capacity for vigorous growth in all the varied environments in which they are used. Certain native species are known as pioneers, because they will invade areas after natural disturbance such as fire, flooding, or mass wasting. Pioneer species are adapted to the environmental conditions in the area  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  148  thereby enhancing their chance of successful establishment.  They  also initiate humus accumulation and nutrient cycling in the early stages of succession making the site suitable for other species. Eventually most pioneers are out-competed by other natives better adapted to the "improved" conditions.  Stable self perpetuating plant  communities requiring no maintenance develop in the long run. Use of these pioneer species, possibly with some fertilization, irrigation or other site preparation and in combination with agronomics in reclaiming sites could result in reduced management cost because natural plant succession to self-maintaining communities will be accelerated.  Further, a diverse native plant cover such as this will  encourage long term stability of the vegetation. In order to minimize the management cost, selection of appropriate local races, or ecotypes, of native species has proven value. Foresters have known and applied this for years when selecting different provenances of trees to get the best wood production. The use of these ecotypes that are genetically suited to certain areas will likely result in increased revegetation success. In addition to their ecological and economic advantages, native species generally integrate better visually into the surroundings than either agronomic or introduced species.  Their growth form,  color, and texture seem to blend into the natural landscape and as a result they are aesthetically more pleasing. The disadvantages of using native species at present are largely practical ones: unavailability and/or high cost of stock or seed; little knowledge of what species to use, when, and under what conditions; the immediate requirement of plant materials for reclaiming specific sites now; and lack of certification of stock quality, to mention a few.  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  149  Bearing these points in mind a great deal of observational and experimental research and field testing on native species should be set in motion as soon as possible.  Some areas where  such studies are needed follow. For example, determining local races appropriate for reclamation requires inventory of the vegetation for each general area (e.g. alpine of Northeast Coal Block) and evaluation of likely reclamation species on the basis of, among other things, their place in succession, role in nutrient cycling, nitrogen fixing capability, contribution to the buildup of humus, amelioration of the site conditions to encourage the buildup of the microflora and fauna palatability for wildlife, ease of propagation, and the range of habitats to which they are adapted.  This information can play an  important role in determining the suitability of different species -and local races of these species (i.e. ecotypes) - for different types of mine waste. Collections of seed, cuttings, transplants, etc. should be made for each promising species, and seed storage and dormancy breaking requirements should be determined.  Methods of propagation should  be evaluated, along with the best timing and methods for seeding of each ecotype to ensure a high seedling establishment in a particular environment.  In harsh environments, the time of  seeding is critical to ensure a favorable microclimate for both germination and seedling establishment. In nature, groups of species often interact in mutually advantageous ways.  Therefore, different combinations of native and/or agronomic  species should be evaluated.  Also, staggering the time of seeding of  different groups of species may be very important.  The possible  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  150  advantages of sowing agronomics immediately for erosion control and for the addition of organic matter to the soil, followed by the seeding of native species should be explored.  Such organic/native mixes should be  further researched because of the high shoot to root production in the agronomics as compared to the initial high root to shoot production in the native species (Ziemkiewicz, P.; pers.com. 1977). In some harsh alpine environments viable seed crops occur in only the best summers, therefore most species are well adapted to vegetative (non-seed) methods of reproduction.  In such cases where seed collection  is a problem, techniques such as using plugs of natural vegetation may be valuable in innoculating sterile soils with microorganisms, as well as accelerating invasion of the native flora.  Coordinating this  technique with seeding of agronomic species for erosion control and organic matter additions should also be examined. In evaluating native species, reclamation objectives as well as site conditions will undoubtedly determine which species are appropriate. A reclamation objective of improved wildlife habitat would likely require a different combination of species than a goal of pulpwood forest. Microsite variations could also influence success and should be taken into consideration.  In extreme cases, such as where toxic materials are  to be revegetated, and conventional site ameliorating methods are unsuccessful, then native species showing mild tolerance of these conditions might be selected and experimentally bred for increased tolerance to revegetate these sites. These are a few of the areas where research in native species could lead to improved reclamation and reduced costs in British Columbia. Clearly the collection of such information through research and testing would take some time for all the Province.  Some information exists already in  the literature but needs to be retrieved and  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  151  interpreted for reclamation purposes.  This would provide the basis  for more clearly defining research priorities and establishing research programming.  However, because of the urgency of getting  research underway now we feel that research priority should be given to difficult sites where agronomic species are relatively unsuccessful or costly to maintain such as steep slopes, dry areas, and alpine tundra. A major goal of this research would be the production of an annotated catalogue of native species suitable for reclamation of disturbed lands in British Columbia.  This manual could be started  now with existing information and eventually would contain all available information on-, each species pertinent to reclamation as well as best methods for ensuring reclamation success (regional and site suitability where-when-how to collect, store, propagate; role in succession; other species features.)  Research to achieve this  goal should be initiated now. Who should do the research? Traditionally this is the universities' domain because of its close relation to professional training and education, staff with research interests, graduate students, research facilities, independent (usually insufficient) funding, and detachment from vested interests.  However, university research is  criticized because results are often slow in coming, difficult to comprehend, and of little practical value to land managers.  But  this is changing as more university research is geared to finding practical answers. Should government or industry foot the bill? And who should determine research priorities?  Because of their  immediate concern with actual reclamation problems should companies do the research or contract it out to consultants? Or, should it be a collaborative effort of universities, private consultants, government and industry with some central group controlling the direction of the research?  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  152  We feel a joint effort would be most fruitful, with research priorities and funding being administered under an independent British Columbia Reclamation Institute which would be concerned with lands disturbed by any means - mining, electric power generation, construction, forestry, highways, etc. - and whose membership would come from public and private land use agencies. With such coordination, with the growing emphasis on not only revegetation but also long term maintenance of green cover, and with the ecological, economic and aesthetic benefits which native species clearly have to offer, the payoff to reclaimers from supporting more research in native species for reclamation in British Columbia should be obvious.  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  153  APPENDIX This list summarizes a preliminary investigation of the literature by W.F. Hubbard (see Hubbard & Bell, 1977). NATIVE SPECIES IN MONTANE RECLAMATION 1.  Native species that been used for reclamation test plots and trials: Shrubs and Trees: Amelanchier alnifolia  Saskatoon  Betula nana  Dwarf Birch  B. papyrifera  Paper Birch  Cornus stolonifera  Red Osier Dogwood  Juniperus communis  Mountain Juniper  J. horizontalis  Creeping Juniper  Picea engelmanii  Engelmann Spruce  P. glauca  White Spruce  Pinus contorta  Lodgepole Pine  Populus tremuloides  Trembling Aspen  Pseudotsuga menziesii  Douglas Fir  Rosa Woodsii  Woods's Rose  Rubus idaeus  Red Raspberry  Sambucus racemosa  Red Elderberry  Shepherdia canadensis  Buffaloberry  Symphoricarpos albus  Snowberry  Forbs: Achillea millefolium  Yarrow  Agastache urticifolia  Horsemint  Artemesia norvegica  Mountain Sagebrush  Aster alpinus  Boreal Aster  Balsamorhiza sagittata  Arrowleaf Balsamroot  Epilobium angustifolium  Fireweed  Heracleum lanatum  Cow Parsnip  Lupinus alpestris  Alpine Lupine  Osmorhiza occidentalis  Western Sweet-cicely  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  154  Penstemon nitidus  Shining Penstemon  P. whippleanus  Whipple's Penstemon  Phacelia heterophylla  Varileaf Phacelia  P. sericea  Silky Phacelia  Vicia americana  Common Vetch  V. cracca  Bird Vetch  Grasses and Sedges: Agropyron dasystachyum  Thick-spiked Wheatgrass  A. smithii  Bluestem Wheatgrass  A. spicatum  Bluebunch Wheatgrass  Agrostis scabra  Winter Bentgrass  Arctagrostis latifolia  Polar Grass  Bromus carinatus  California Brome  B. ciliatus  Fringed Brome  B. tectorum  Cheatgrass  Calamagrostis Canadensis  Canada Reedgrass  Carex bigelowii  Sedge  Danthonia parryi  Parry's Oatgrass  Deschampsia caespitosa  Tufted Hairgrass  Eriophorum vaginatum  Cotton Grass  Festuca ovina  Sheep Fescue  Koeleria cristata  Prairie Junegrass  Phleum alpinum  Alpine Timothy  Poa alpina  Alpine Bluegrass  Trisetum spicatum  Spiked trisetum  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  155  II.  Native species that have been proposed for reclamation trials*: Shrubs and Trees; Abies lasiocarpa  Subalpine Fir  Acer glabrum var.douglasii  Douglas’ Maple  Alnus sinuate  Sitka Alder  A. tenuifolia  Mountain Alder  Arctostaphylos uva-ursi  Bearberry  Betula occidentalis  River Birch  Ceanothus sanguineus  Redstem Snowbrush  C. velutinus  Sticky-laurel  Crataegus oxyacantha  Hawthorn  Pinus albicaulis  White Bark Pine  P. banksiana  Jack Pine  P. flexilis  Limber Pine  Populus balsamifera  Balsam Poplar  P. trichocarpa  Black Cottonwood  Potentilla fruticosa  Shrubby Cinquefoil  Rhododendron albiflorum  White Rhododendron  Salix alaxensis  Alaska Willow  S. arctica  Arctic Willow  S. polaris  Willow  S. reticulata  Willow  Spiraea lucida  Spiraea  Forbs proposed:  Artemesia caudate  Artemesia  A. frigida  Pasture Sagebrush  Corydalis aurea  Golden Corydalis  Dryas drummondii  Yellow Mountain-avens  D. octopetala  White Dryad  Epilobium latifolium  Red Willow-herb  E. watsonii  Watson's Willow-herb  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  156  Equisetum arvense  Field Horsetail  Hedysarum alpinum  Alpine Sweetvetch  Polygonum bistortoides P.  American Bistort  viviparum  Alpine Bistort  Saxifraga tricuspidata  Prickly Sazifrage  Sedum stenopetalum  Wormleaf Stonecrop  Veronica cusickii  Cusick's Speedwell  Grasses: Agropyron scribneri  Spreading Wheatgrass  Calamagrostis montanensis  Plains Reedgrass  C. rubescens  Pinegrass  Carex spp.  Sedges  Festuca brachyphylla  Alpine Fescue  F. idahoensis  Idaho Fescue  Helictotrichon hookeri  Spike-Oat  Festuca scabrella  Buffalo Bunchgrass  Hordeum jubatum  Foxtail Barley  Poa cusickii  Cusick's Bluegrass  P. fendleriana  Mutton Grass  P. lanata  Woolly Bluegrass  P. sandbergii  Sandberg's Bluegrass  * This list is by no means complete  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  157  Literature Cited: Farmer, E.E., B.Z. Richardson, and R.W. Brown, 1976. Revegetation of Acid Mining Wastes in Central Idaho. U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Research Paper INT - 178. 17 pp. Harrington, H.D. 1946. Results of a seeding experiment at high altitudes in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Ecology 27: 375-377. Hernandez, H. 1973. Revegetation studies - Norman Wells, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. In: Botanical Studies of Disturbed Sites in Sub-Arctic and Arctic Regions, ed. L.C. Bliss. Canada, Task Force on Northern Oil Development, Dept. 73-43. pp.77-149. Hubbard, W.F. and M.A.M. Bell. 1977. Reclamation of lands disturbed by mining in mountainous and northern areas: a synoptic bibliography and review relevant to British Columbia and adjacent areas. Nishimura, J.Y. 1974. Soils and soil problems at high altitudes. In:Proceedings of a Workshop on Revegetation of High Altitude Disturbed Lands. Colorado State University. pp.5-9. Schiechtl, H.M. 1973. Callwey, Munich.  Sicherungsarbeiten in Landschaftsbau.  st  Proceedings of the 1 Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  158  Acknowledgments: We appreciate the advice and help of those who read the manuscript, particularly Bill Hubbard, Biocon Research, Ltd. are our own.  The opinions expressed  

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