On the Use of Shallow Basins to Restore Cutover Peatlands: Plant Establishment

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Abstract

Since the early 1990s, restoration techniques have been developed for milled and cutover peatlands in eastern Canada. These techniques are based on the active reintroduction of peatland plant diaspores, blocking drainage, and the use of straw mulch to improve surface conditions. This study examines the effectiveness of using shallow (20 cm deep) basins of various widths to improve the success of current peatland restoration techniques. It comprises three different experiments, each spanning three or four growing seasons and combining both small-scale manual and large-scale mechanized plant reintroductions. Cover data recorded in two of the experiments were regressed against a series of environmental factors to determine how Sphagnum establishment success was related to abiotic variables such as moisture, water ponding, surface roughness, and mulch cover. Results of these experiments demonstrate that shallow basins were generally effective at promoting Sphagnum establishment and that this effect extends beyond the positive impact that basins have on hydrological conditions. Basins of various widths were equally successful. Soil-moisture content (linear positive effect) and duration and severity of flooding events (quadratic effect) were shown to be determinant of plant recovery. Other factors such as the density of straw cover (positive effect) and surface roughness (negative effect) were also instrumental in explaining local variation in Sphagnum cover. Plant cover after three and four growing seasons averaged 20–25% in mechanical reintroductions and 40–60% in manual reintroductions, demonstrating the overall effectiveness of the restoration techniques used.

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