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April 18, 2019 | 1:00pm ET

Evaluation of soil respiration rates across a range of well-pad peatland restoration treatments in the Alberta oil sands region


These are the three different well pad restored peatland sites in Alberta oil sands region. Site (a) is SKEG, (b) is H38 and (c) is IPAD.


Arohi Dixit 1,3, Tariq M Munir1, Maria Strack1,2

  • 1 Department of Geography, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
  • 2 Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada
  • 3 School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Oil sands mining disturbs the carbon sink function of peatland ecosystems. Various restoration techniques have been tested for well-pads in peatlands and rates of carbon exchange can be used to evaluate the return of ecosystem function post-restoration. We measured dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and soil respiration rates (CO2 emissions) in three different restored sites: SKEG, IPAD, and H-38. A total of 13 restoration treatments were studied which included four treatments in SKEG (partial pad removal with planting: dry carex (Carex aquatilis), dry willow, wet carex, wet willow); three treatments in IPAD (peat, clay and mixed inversion); and six treatments in H-38 (complete pad removal: vegetated, soil under open water; partial pad removal: moss, equisetum; partial pad removal: sedgy, non-sedgy). An incubation jar method was used to measure respiration rates in soil samples (collected from the treatments) using an infrared gas analyzer (EGM-4). The soil respiration rates were measured every third day for a total of nine days. Effects of different restoration treatments and their corresponding soil respiration rates were compared. Results were compared to values measured at natural bog - hummocks and hollows in SKEG and fen - hummocks and hollows in H-38. Among various restoration treatments, dry partial pad removal at SKEG showed non-comparable DOC values but similar soil respiration rates as natural sites- In contrast, restoration treatments in H-38 varied significantly from natural sites (p < 0.05). Low DOC concentrations were observed in some mineral dominated sites in SKEG (1.28-4.95 mg/l) whereas, comparatively high values of DOC were observed in some peat dominated sites in IPAD (29.60-75.31 in mg/l), SKEG (36.76-70.77 mg/l) and H-38 (3.673-27.43 mg/l). Soil characteristics (EC, pH, loss on ignition, bulk density) had poor relationships with each other suggesting minimum interplays among them. The results are helpful in selecting effective restoration treatments that return the ecosystem function post-restoration of well-pads on peatland in the Alberta oil sands region.

PyzI Headshot

Arohi Dixit

My specific interests are - water quality index and its seasonal variation in urban wetlands; Carbon and methane fluxes in wetland; Behavior of different forms of phosphorous and nitrogen in sediment cores and water. Stable isotopic systematics. Heavy metal characterization in various components of wetland and their associated potential ecological risk. Use of different isotopic signatures in tracing pollution, and finally wetland restoration and management strategies.

I have a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences.  Worked on heavy metal characterization in urban soils of Gurgaon city, Haryana, India towards my M.Phil. degree where I explored various geochemical changes in an urban landscape with changing land use. Currently, I am working on several wetlands of Gurgaon - one of the highly developed cities of India, for water and sediment quality along with nutrient dynamics.

Munir Tariq headshot

Dr. Tariq Munir

Dr. Munir completed his Ph.D. in the wetland environment at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This research evaluated and modeled the impacts of industrial disturbance or climate change on wetland environment and greenhouse gas fluxes at an Alberta peatland. Since then, Dr. Munir has gained wetland protection and regulatory experience as a wetland engineer with Oil Sands Development and Research at Imperial Oil Resources. At Imperial, he’s completed two major projects: 1) Remote monitoring of well pads reclaimed/restored to peatland trajectories in Cold Lake, AB; 2) Treatment function modeling of Kearl water treatment wetland receiving impacted water from Northern Overburden Disposal Area. Dr. Munir is interested in continuing his research in wetland greenhouse gas exchange in relation to the impacts of climate change and oil sands development in the oil sands development region of Alberta, Canada.

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