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British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Establishment of trees and shrubs on mined land in the subalpine region of Alberta Macyk, Terry M.; Belts, Vernon G.


The Alberta Research Council has conducted a surface mine reclamation research program at the operations of Smoky River Coal Limited near Grande Cache, Alberta since 1972. The overall objective of this study is to develop and refine costeffective methods of establishing and maintaining a vegetative cover that is in harmony with adjacent undisturbed areas. A program to introduce trees and shrubs to the area was undertaken concurrently with the establishment of grasses and legumes. Due to the lack of seedlings available at the time for planting above an elevation of 1100 m, a cone collection program was undertaken to obtain seed for production of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia), white spruce (Picea glauca), and engelmann spruce (Picea engelmanniil. Cuttings of willow (Salix spp.), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), and root cuttings of aspen (Populus tremuloides) were rooted in the greenhouse prior to planting. Willow cuttings were also collected and directly planted in the field. Most of the trees and shrubs produced were planted in areas having an established grass, or grass and legume cover. Container grown conifer seedlings were superior to bare root stock in terms of survival and growth rate. Survival rate increased with increasing size of container. Mean annual growth measurements of lodgepole pine and engelmann spruce seedlings in the reclaimed areas and adjacent undisturbed forest indicated that the reconstructed soils will support tree growth that is equivalent to the growth achieved on the natural or undisturbed soils. The willow and alder provided excellent protection for the conifers when the conifers exceeded the height of the grass and legume cover. Frost heaving of container seedlings and limited egress were the major causes of mortality for the conifers. Direct seeding was initiated in the fall of 1983 using seed of pine, spruce, and alder. The results obtained showed that direct seeding is a viable alternative to the use of container or bare root materials for specific locations in a mined area. The research conducted to date indicates that trees and shrubs can become established in reclaimed areas in the subalpine. The methods that are utilized for any given location are dependent on the end land use desired, the time frame allowed, and specific site conditions.

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