British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Using ecosystem water and carbon fluxes as integrated measures of reclamation success Straker, J.; Baker, T.; Carey, S.; Petrone, R.


The cycling of water, energy, and carbon are ecosystem functions that support the overall health and success of vegetated ecosystems. With insufficient water and/or nutrients, water use and carbon uptake are reduced and ecosystems experience stress. In most of western and northern Canada, ecosystems experience growing-season water stresses that limit growth. Understanding the linkages between climate, water availability and use, and carbon assimilation is central to understanding of the magnitude of this limitation, and of key ecosystem functions. We assembled and synthesized over 15 years of research on water and carbon fluxes and ecosystem development on reclaimed oil-sands mine sites and on non-mine reference sites in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of northern Alberta. A central premise of this work is that if reclaimed and reference sites with similar moisture and nutrient availability are using water and assimilating carbon at similar rates under the same climate, this suggests that the reclaimed sites are experiencing no greater levels of environmental stress than the reference sites, and no greater limitations to utilizing available site resources. Results of our work indicate similar functional processes of water storage and use, and carbon assimilation, between mine sites reclaimed to boreal-forest communities and non-mine reference sites.

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