Evaluating Function of a Constructed Fen in Alberta's Oil Sands Region Using Dissolved Organic Carbon Concentration and Chemistry

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Maria Strack1,2 and Bhupesh Khadka1, (1)University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, (2)University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Peatlands, mainly fens, account for close to 65% of the landscape in the oil sands region near Fort McMurray, Alberta. Since mine closure plans require landscape reclamation, methods for fen construction are being investigated. As reclamation goals include the return of ecosystem function, criteria for evaluation must be developed. In this study we compare soil concentrations and spectrophometric properties of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from a constructed fen during its first growing season with that collected from three diverse, undisturbed reference fens in the region.

The constructed fen had lower DOC concentration than all the reference fens. Based on E2/E3, E4/E6 and specific UV absorbance of the DOC, the constructed fen had DOC with significantly greater humic content, aromatic nature, and larger molecular size than the reference fens. Results from laboratory DOC production studies indicate that these patterns are likely due to the limited DOC contribution from the newly planted vegetation at the constructed fen, resulting in DOC largely derived from humified peat placed during construction. These preliminary results suggest that DOC concentration and chemistry provide information about the ecological development of the constructed system that could be useful for evaluating reclamation success through time.