Modelling plant water relations and net primary productivity as affected by reclamation cover depth in reclaimed forestlands of northern Alberta

  • N. P. Y. WelegedaraEmail author
  • R. F. Grant
  • Sylvie A. Quideau
  • Simon M. Landhäusser
  • Morgane Merlin
  • E. Lloret
Regular Article



Success in establishing upland forests on landforms constructed from overburden is determined by the characteristics of the reclamation soil covers and depth. We explored whether an ecosystem model that uses water potential gradients to simulate soil-plant-atmosphere water transfers can be used to forecast effects of water availability on plant water relations and net primary productivity (NPP) with different cover depths in these constructed landforms.


Plant water relations and growth were simulated with ecosys and tested against measured soil moisture content, rooting depth, transpiration, leaf area and biomass production in three soil cover depths over 5 years.


Shallow reclamation soil cover depth caused greater water potential gradients and less soil water content, tree water uptake and growth to be modelled, consistent with measured data. Modelled transpiration increased nonlinearly with increasing cover depth, indicating a threshold depth above which additional gains in transpiration and hence NPP would be limited.


This study highlights the importance of sufficient cover depth on forest community end-land use re-establishment. It also demonstrated that a terrestrial ecosystem model such as ecosys can be a useful tool in forecasting land capability for reclamation soil covers of different depths and properties under diverse climates.


Land reclamation Reclamation cover depth Plant water-use Forest productivity Ecosys 



Available soil water content


Available soil water holding capacity


Ambient CO2 concentration


Canopy CO2 concentration


Aqueous CO2 concentration in canopy chloroplasts


Gaseous CO2 concentration in canopy leaves


Day of year


Canopy transpiration


Non-stomatal effects of plant water status on carboxylation


Field capacity


Change in heat storage


Canopy stomatal conductance


Gross primary productivity


Sensible heat flux


Hydraulic conductivity


Saturated hydraulic conductivity


Leaf area index


Land Capability Classification System for Forest Ecosystems


Latent heat flux


Left hand side


Mean absolute relative error


Net primary productivity


Soil water contents




Plant functional type


Peat mineral mix


Permanent wilting point


Autotrophic respiration


Aerodynamic resistance


Canopy stomatal resistance


Minimum canopy resistance


Root length density


Right hand side


Root mass densities


Root mean squares for difference


Root-mean-squares for error


Net radiation


Stand sap wood area to ground area ratio


South Bison Hills


Canopy temperature


Time domain reflectometry


Plant water uptake


CO2-limited leaf carboxylation rate


Canopy carboxylation rates


Leaf CO2 diffusion


Water-use efficiency of productivity


Soil hydraulic resistances


Root hydraulic resistances


Canopy water potential


Canopy osmotic water potential


Soil osmotic potential


Gravitational potential


Soil matric potential


Canopy turgor potential


Soil water potential



Funding for the study was provided by the Land Reclamation International Graduate School (LRIGS) at the University of Alberta, the NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program, and Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development (CONRAD). Computational facilities for the modelling project were provided by Compute Canada and WestGrid high performance computing infrastructure, and the University of Alberta. The great support in providing field data by Syncrude Canada limited is very much appreciated and special thanks goes to Marty Yarmuch and Bonnie Drozdowski for providing support to get field data. We would like to acknowledge Jeff Kelly, Frances Leishman, Caren Jones, Cassandra McKenzie, Brittany McAdams, Jela Burkus, Luke Donnan, Kelti Eaton, Melanie Luong for field data acquisition and laboratory assistance.

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4363_MOESM1_ESM.docx (362 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 361 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Renewable ResourcesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Laboratoire Génie Civil et géo-Environnement – Université de LilleLilleFrance

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