British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Selection of native legume species for reclamation in the Rocky Mountains Smreciu, Elizabeth Ann, 1955-


Natural habitat disturbances are increasing on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. At present, there is little choice of plant material to use for revegetating these disturbances because many available grasses and legumes are not adapted to survive or reproduce in the harsh environments at high elevations. The introduction of adapted agronomic plants is also a concern because these are often persistent and invasive; they restrict natural succession and replace indigenous species in previously undisturbed plant communities. In 1990, Wild Rose Consulting, Inc. (Edmonton) and Alberta Environmental Centre, (Vegreville) began a four year project to collect, evaluate, and select native legume species for use in reclamation seed mixtures for the mountains and foothills. In 1990 and 1991, seeds of fourteen legume species were collected from 41 sites in the mountains and foothills of Alberta. Seeds were sown in the greenhouse, and transplanted to an evaluation field nursery. Plants were observed for three seasons. Data concerning survival, growth and development, and yield were analysed and combined with distribution data and legumes were ranked. Astragalus alpinus had the best potential for use in reclamation on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains up to an elevation of 2000 m. It will be useful for establishing a rapid cover on sites but should be used in mixtures with longer lived legumes, as it is short-lived. Both Oxytropis monticola and O. splendens were also recommended for use in reclamation mixtures. Astragalus vexilliflexus, Hedysarum boreale, Oxytropis sericeus and O. cusickii display desirable qualities but require further study.

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