British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Development of a soil water balance-based model for predicting ecosystem occurrence on post-closure landforms Baker, T. D.; Straker, J.; Ryan, M. G.


Soil moisture regime (SMR) is a fundamental factor determining ecosystem occurrence in B.C.’s Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification system. Applying the SMR concept to mine reclamation is often challenging during early reclamation stages because standard indicators used in undisturbed ecosystems are lacking. Using a provincial ecological survey database of 5789 co-located soil and vegetation plots, a system based on volumetric soil-water supply was developed to predict SMR classifications for reclaimed upland sites, which is more accurate than currently available approaches. The system is based on a small number of parameters that can be easily measured or estimated for reclamation landforms, which are input into a regression model that is adjusted for slope position. An advantage of this system over standard approaches is the use of quantitative measures (e.g. particle-size distribution) rather than categorical variables (e.g. soil classed as ‘fine’ or ‘coarse’), which enables better evaluation of key reclamation questions regarding soil-cover depths and quality of soil-salvage sources. Peer-reviewed climate models have been integrated to make water-balance estimates for both historic normal conditions and future climate-change scenarios. An online tool has been developed to allow reclamation managers to explore the ecohydrological implications of management decisions and select appropriate ecosystem targets.

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