Two decades of reclamation research in the subalpine region of Alberta Macyk, Terry M; Widtman, Z. W.; Betts, V.
The Alberta Research Council has conducted a surface mine reclamation research program in association with the operations of Smoky River Coal Ltd. near Grande Cache, Alberta since 1972. The main objective of this long-term on-going study is to develop and refine methods of establishing and maintaining a vegetative cover that is in harmony with adjacent undisturbed areas. Use of appropriate materials handling techniques including coversoil replacement strategies and selection of suitable plant species combined with good management practices has resulted in the establishment of diverse plant communities that allow for different land use options. The soils reconstructed after mining are generally coarser textured, higher in pH and lower in available nutrients than unmined soils. Plot studies to determine the suitability and adaptability of various agronomic and native grasses and legumes as well as fertilization trials were established and monitored annually. Container and bare root conifer seedlings and cuttings of deciduous species were utilized initially to establish trees and shrubs in the area. Direct seeding has also proven to be a viable method for establishment of trees and shrubs in the area. Long-term monitoring results indicte that desirable agronomic species will thrive and reproduce at this elevation and that native species including trees and shrubs will invade the revegetated areas. Coarse fragment content, distance from nearest upwind seed source and slope were identified as the most significant variables influencing native species invasion of previously revegetated areas. Long-term climate monitoring data support the conclusion that climate is the most limiting factor to reclamation success in the region. Firm conclusions and recommendations regarding appropriate reclamation practices for the region can be drawn from the results of the long-term research effort and monitoring of operational reclamation. The success of reclamation in the study area is measured by the productivity achieved and the presence of and utilization by wildlife.
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