Woody Debris Amendment Enhances Reclamation after Oil Sands Mining in Alberta, Canada



Mining disturbs large forested areas around the world, including boreal forests after oil sands mining in Canada. Industrial companies are expected to reclaim degraded land to ecosystems with equivalent land capability. This research showed the value of woody debris for reclamation of dramatically disturbed landscapes with a forest ecosystem end land use. Adding woody debris during reclamation can facilitate recovery of flora, soil nutrient cycling and water and nutrient holding capacity. Combined with forest floor material, woody debris can provide native plant propagules that would be otherwise commercially unavailable. Sites with and without woody debris on forest floor material containing identifiable litter (L), fragmented and fermented litter (F), and humus (H) (LFH), and peat mineral soil mix (peat) cover soils were studied. Within 2 years, woody debris decreased bare ground and created microsites which were positively associated with greater vegetation cover and woody plant density. Woody debris treatments had lower soil available nitrate and soil under woody debris had a lower temperature range and higher soil volumetric water content than control treatments without woody debris. Woody debris did not affect first year microbial biomass carbon or mycorrhizae, but both were greater on LFH than peat cover soil. LFH was associated with lower bare ground and greater vegetation cover, species richness, and soil phosphorus and potassium than peat cover soil, which had greater soil sulfate.