British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

A preliminary evaluation of native psammophilous plants for revegetating oil sand tailings at Syncrude… Smreciu, Elizabeth Ann, 1955-; Yakimchuk, Roberta; Currah, Randolph Sidney, 1954- 1997

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata


59367-1997 - Smreciu, Yakimchuk, Currah - A Preliminary Evaluation.pdf [ 358.19kB ]
JSON: 59367-1.0042315.json
JSON-LD: 59367-1.0042315-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 59367-1.0042315-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 59367-1.0042315-rdf.json
Turtle: 59367-1.0042315-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 59367-1.0042315-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 59367-1.0042315-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation A PRELIMINARY EVALUATION OF NATIVE PSAMMOPHILOUS PLANTS FOR REVEGETATING OIL SAND TAILINGS AT SYNCRUDE CANADA (FORT MCMURRAY, ALBERTA). A. Smreciu1, R. Yakimchuk1, and R.S. Currah2. 1. Wild Rose Consulting, Inc. 3525-41 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta. T6L 5S5. 2. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, T6G 2E9. ABSTRACT Native plants that naturally establish and thrive in sand (particularly on active dunes) are adapted to dry, nutrient deficient habitats and have evolved a tolerance to burial and exposure. In 1995, Wild Rose Consulting, Inc. and Syncrude Canada initiated a preliminary study to evaluate psammophilous plants (native to the local boreal ecoregion) for establishment and growth on oil sand tailings near Fort McMurray. Alberta. Seeds and roots of Astragalus aboriginum, Carex siccata, Deschampsia mackenzieana, Elymus mollis, Hierochloe odorata, Hudsonia tomentosa, Salix brachycarpa, and Stellaria arenicola were collected from three active dune sites in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan (Grande Prairie, Lesser Slave Lake, and Lake Athabasca). A preliminary survey of mycorrhizal symbionts was undertaken. Germination was tested after seeds were dried and cleaned. Species with adequate germination were tested for growth in tailing sands under controlled conditions. Astragalus aboriginum, Deschampsia mackenzieana, Salix brachycarpa, and Stellaria arenicola grew well in tailing sands in the greenhouse and were placed in field plots in 1996 (transplanted and seeded). Average survival of transplants in field plots was 80% or greater after two months in the first year. Deschampsia mackenzieana and Astragalus aboriginum seedlings were also emerging. Plants were divided into three groups based on their mycorrhizal symbionts: Elymus mollis, Deschampsia mackenzieana, and Hierochloe odorata formed vesicular-arbuscular mychorrizas, Hudsonia tomentosa and Salix brachycarpa were ectomycorrhizal, and Stellaria arenicola and Carex siccata lacked recognizable mycorrhizae. INTRODUCTION Plants that naturally establish and thrive in sand and particularly on active dunes have numerous adaptations to allow them to tolerate low nutrient, low moisture habitats where temperature changes can be extreme. The plants tolerate burial and subsequent exposure and seeds can remain viable for long periods (Hermesh 1972, Zhang and Maun 1994). These same adaptations might allow these plants to establish and thrive on, and provide some measure of stability to, sand deposited in large areas following oil extraction at the Syncrude Oil Sands mining in northern Alberta. A program to evaluate sand dune plants was initiated by Syncrude Canada Inc. and Wild Rose Consulting, Inc in 1995. The objectives are to evaluate plant species that naturally establish and grow on local sand dunes (active and semi-stable) for their potential to establish, grow, and develop in oil sand tailings. 188 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation METHODS In summer of 1995, seeds and roots of eight species (Astragalus aboriginum, Carex siccata, Deschampsia mackenzieana, Elymus mollis, Hierochloe odorata, Hudsonia tomentosa, Salix brachycarpa, and Stellaria arenicola) were collected in three locations of Alberta and/or Saskatchewan - southeast end of Lesser Slave Lake (Alberta), south shores of Lake Athabasca (Saskatchewan), and Wapiti-Bear dunes south of Grande Prairie (Alberta). The eight species were chosen based on presence, quantity, and location of the species and the amount of seed that could be collected. Where possible, collections were made in unstable and semi-stabilized areas to ensure that some diversity within species was represented. Five to ten healthy, mature plants of each species were excavated at Lake Athabasca and Lesser Slave Lake to coincide with seed collection locations. Plants were dug and a small rootball or small amount of adjacent sand was maintained with the plant in plastic bags. Bags were sealed and transported to the laboratory as quickly as possible. Between 5 and 10 healthy looking root segments, 1-2 cm long, were detached from the main root or rhizome of each collection. Root segments were fixed immediately in a solution of FAA (formalin, acetic acid, alcohol, and water in a 10:5:10:35 ratio) for at least 24 hours. Preserved segments were cleared by removing them from the FAA and heating them to 9O°C in an aqueous solution of KOH. Segments were neutralized by rinsing them in water to which a few drops of HCl had been added, stained with Trypan blue, and mounted on glass slides in polyvinyl alcohol. Slides were surveyed for the presence and type of mycorrhizal fungi present in the roots. Seeds were hand collected, air dried, cleaned using standard cleaning methods (Morgen et al. 1995, Smreciu 1993), and prepared for germination tests during the fall and winter. Both stratified (3-6° C for four weeks) and untreated seeds were tested for germination under ambient light and temperature conditions in the laboratory. The single legume species, Astragalus aboriginum, was also tested following scarification. Germination was tested over a seven to ten week period. All germination tests were replicated. Species, for which germination exceeded 70%, were tested for survival and growth in greenhouse soil mix and tailings sands under greenhouse conditions. Plants were fertilized with 20-20-20 as required. Plants resulting from these tests were transplanted into trial plots in tailing sands at Syncrude in early summer of 1996. Seeded plots were also established in the tailing sands. Data concerning survival, growth and development were collected in late summer 1996 (2 months after planting) 189 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation and again in 1997. Greenhouse and transplant data were analysed using an independent group t-test and Neuman-Keuls multiple comparison test. Voucher specimens of each species were taken at each location. These were pressed, mounted, and deposited in herbaria at University of Alberta, Department of Biology Herbarium (ALTA) and/or the Alberta Research Council Herbarium (Vegreville). RESULTS Data collected in 1997 have not yet been analysed and therefore only preliminary results (from 1996) are presented here. Four species (Astragalus abohginum, Stellaria arenicola, Salix brachycarpa, and Deschampsia mackenzieana) germinated over 70% in the initial germination tests (Table 1). As with many legumes, Astragalus aboriginum seeds required scarification and with this treatment achieved 100% germination. Ninety one percent of Stellaria arenicola seeds germinated following stratification whereas both Deschampsia mackenziana and. Salix brachycarpa germinated better if untreated. Hudsonia tomentosa seeds never attained more than 6% germination. Astragalus aboriginum, Stellaria arenicola, Salix brachycarpa, and Deschampsia mackenzieana were chosen for greenhouse trials. Each of these species survived and grew well in greenhouse soils under controlled conditions (Table 2). Survival, vigour, and height of Astragalus aboriginum was similar between substrates (greenhouse soil mix or tailings sand). Survival of Deschampsia mackenzieana and Salix brachycarpa was excellent in each substrate but in both cases plants grown in greenhouse soils were slightly more vigourous and grew taller. Stellaria arenicola survived significantly better in greenhouse soil and was more vigourous and plants were taller. Seedlings of only two species emerged in the field trials in the first season (Table 3). Average emergence of Astragalus aboriginum was 19.7% but results were variable among sub-samples. Seedlings were small and not very vigourous. Deschampsia mackenzieana had an average emergence of 15.7% but covered up to 67% of the ground. Plants of this species were also small. 190 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Table 1. Preliminary germination of psammophilous species. Within row, species followed by the same letter are not significantly different (P>0.05).  Table 2. Evaluation of four species grown in soil and sand tailings in the greenhouse. Within rows, values followed by the same letter are not significantly different (PtO.05).  Field survival of all transplants (after two months) was high; an average of at least 80% was recorded regardless of original soil type (Table 4). In most cases, plants started in greenhouse soil survived better than those started 191 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation in tailings sand but differences were only significant for Salix brachycarpa. Survival of Deschampsia was 100% regardless of soil. Only Deschampsia and Stellaha arenicola spread to any extent and spread was greater for plants grown in the greenhouse soil mix. Plants of Astragalus aboriginum, Salix brachycarpa, and Stellaria arenicola grown in greenhouse soil continued to be more vigourous than those grown in sand tailings. Difference in vigour was not significant for Deschampsia mackenzieana plants regardless of substrate. Height within species continued to be greater for plants grown in greenhouse soils. Table 3. Emergence and growth of sand species sown in sand tailings field trials in 1996.  Based on mycorrhiza, plant species were divided into three groups. The first group, consisting of Elymus mollis, Deschampsia mackenziana, and Hierochloe odorata, had vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizas. The second ectomycorrhizal group included Hudsonia tomentosa and Salix brachycarpa. The third group, consisting of Stellaria arenicola and Carex siccata, lacked recognizable mycorrhizas. Two out of eight Elymus mollis samples exhibited colonization by VA mycorrhizal fungi. Other fungal colonists included Rhizoctonia, a genus which often plays an ambiguous role (amensal, mycorrhizal, or pathogenic) in native plants. Seven out often Deschampsia samples exhibited colonization by VA mycorrhizal fungi. Other fungi were infrequent and indistinct. Colonization of one collection was by a distinctive (unidentified) fine endophyte. One of two Hierochloe collections had heavy colonization by Rhizoctonia and slight colonization by VAM fungi. All samples of Hudsonia tomentosa from both Lake Athabasca and Slave Lake and all Salix brachycarpa roots were heavily colonized by ectomycorrhizal fungi. Cenococcum geophilum was the most frequently mycobiont observed in both these plants. 192 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Three of nine Stellaria arenicola samples were heavily colonized; two by Rhizoctonia and one by an unidentified fimgus with black hyphae. All Carexsiccata had a well developed system of long root hairs and there was little or no colonization by any fungi. Table 4. Survival and growth of species planted in sand tailings field plots in 1996.   Within rows, values followed by the same letter are not significantly different (P>0.05).  DISCUSSION Based on preliminary results, each of the four primary species (Astragalus aboriginum, Deschampsia mackenzieana, Salix brachycarpa, Stellaria arenicola) has potential for use in revegetating sand tailings. All four species survived well in field trials in the first growing season. Mychorrizal survey results indicate that establishment and, more likely, growth and development of some could be enhanced by the introduction of mycorrhizal elements. Data regarding emergence, growth, and development continues to be collected from the initial trial plots. Replicate plots using the initial four species were installed in 1997. Elymus mollis, Carex siccata, and Hierachloe odorata were transplanted and seeded in field plots beginning in 1997. Hudsonia tomentosa has 193 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation been temporarily eliminated from further testing due to poor germination. As many as five additional species are now being collected from their natural habitat and testing will proceed with these species in subsequent years. We are confident that the results from this unique project will lead to commercial production of a number of plant species that will then be available for routine use by Syncrude and other companies required to revegetate sand tailings. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We wish to acknowledge Dr. Martin Fung (Syncrude), Reinhard Hermesh and Michelle Pahl (Alberta Research Council) for their continuing input into this project. Along with Dr. Brett Purdy, they provided interesting discussions that lead to the initiation and/or development of the program. We are also grateful to Dr. Purdy for his work in the capacity as field guide to the Lake Athabasca Sand Dunes. We acknowledge Mr. George Bihun (Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management) for providing a collection permit for the area. Numerous technical staff and students from Syncrude, Alberta Research Council, Wild Rose Consulting, and the University of Alberta assisted in many tasks including collecting, cleaning and preparing seeds, preparation of root samples, and setting up and planting field trials. REFERENCES Hermesh, R. 1972. A study of the ecology of the Athabasca Sand Dunes with emphasis on the phytogenic aspects of dune formation. MSc Thesis, Department of Plant Ecology, University of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Morgen, J., D. Collicut, and J. Thompson. 1995. Restoring Canada's native prairies: a practical manual. Prairie Habitats, Argyle, Manitoba. 84 pp. Smreciu, A. 1993. Native legumes for reclamation in Alberta. Alberta Conservation and Reclamation Council Report. 94 pp. Smreciu, A., R. Yakimchuk, R. Hermesh., and R. Currah. 1995. Evaluation of native sand dune plants for revegetation of oil sand tailings. Phase 1 Interim Progress Report (1995). Prepared for Syncrude Canada Limited. Zhang, J. and M. A. Maun. 1994. Potential for seed bank formation in seven Great Lakes sand dune species. American Journal of Botany 81(4): 387-394. 194


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items