, Volume 11, Issue 1-2, pp 3-20

North American approach to the restoration of Sphagnum dominated peatlands

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Abstract

Sphagnum dominated peatlands do not rehabilitate well after being cutover (mined) for peat and some action needs to be taken in order to restore these sites within a human generation. Peatland restoration is recent and has seen significant advances in the 1990s. A new approach addressing the North American context has been developed and is presentedin this paper. The short-term goal of this approach is to establish a plant cover composed of peat bog species and to restore a water regime characteristic of peatland ecosystems. The long-term objective is to return the cutover areas to functional peat accumulating ecosystems. The approach developed for peatland restoration in North America involves the following steps: 1)field preparation, 2) diaspore collection, 3) diaspore introduction, 4) diaspore protection, and 5) fertilization. Field preparation aims at providing suitable hydrological conditions for diaspores through creation of microtopography and water retention basins, re-shaping cutover fields and blocking ditches. It is site specific because it depends largely onlocal conditions. The second step is the collection of the top 10 centimetres of the living vegetation in a natural bog as a source of diaspores. It is recommended to use a ratio of surface collected to surface restored between 1: 10 and 1: 15 in order to minimize the impact on natural bogs and to insure rapid plant establishment in less than four years. Diaspores are then spread as a thin layer on the bare peat surfaces to be restored. It has been demonstrated that too scant or too thick a layer decreases plant establishment success. Diaspores are then covered by a straw mulch applied at a rate of 3 000 kg ha-1 which provides improved water availabilityand temperature conditions. Finally, phosphorus fertilization favours more rapid substrate colonization by vascular plants, which have been shown to help stabilize the bare peat surface and act as nurse plants to the Sphagnum mosses.