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Effects of land reclamation practices on the productivity of young trembling aspen and white spruce on a reclaimed oil sands mining site in northern Alberta

Abstract

Identifying the main drivers of tree height growth on reclaimed oil sands sites of northern Alberta can provide useful information on what can be done to shorten the recovery time of these disturbed sites. The effect of water availability, foliar nutrient concentrations, competition, and soil chemical properties on young trembling aspen and white spruce height across two soil types (peat-mineral mix and forest floor-mineral mix) and two fertilizer levels (200 kg NPK ha−1 and no fertilizer) was examined. For comparison, we also studied a natural site that burned the same year the reclaimed site was established. On the reclaimed site, peat-mineral soil had the greatest tree height for both species, though not by a significant margin in the case of white spruce. The fertilizer treatment had no apparent effect on tree height on the forest floor-mineral soil and a negative effect on the peat-mineral soil. Fertilization increased vegetation cover on both soil types, which, when combined with the negative or lack of durable effect of fertilization on tree height, suggest that the increase in competition for resources could have had a stronger effect on tree height than the increase in immediately available nutrients following fertilization. The majority of tree height growth drivers found were related to nutrient availability and, as far as we can tell, did not significantly differ between reclamation soil types. Aspen sucker height on the burned site was not strongly correlated to the measured variables, suggesting that suckers do not yet fully rely on their environment for height growth.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Leah deBortoli, Jennifer Buss, Jim Hammond, Jim Weber, Ruth Errington, Shelby Feniak, Stephanie Jean, and Kyle Stratechuk for their help in the field. We also thank Jonathan Beauséjour for his help with laboratory work and Jaime Pinzon for his guidance on data analysis. Funding for this project was provided by Canadian Natural Resources Limited. The authors would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers and the associate editor who gave constructive comments on the draft manuscript.

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Correspondence to Pierre-Yves Tremblay.

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Appendices

Appendix A: Complete equations of the ten best scoring models for trembling aspen on each soil types

See Table 8.

Table 8 Full equations of the best scoring models using AICc of trembling aspen height

Appendix B: Complete equations of the ten best scoring models for white spruce on each soil types

See Table 9.

Table 9 Full equations of the best scoring models using AICc of white spruce height

Appendix C: Actual versus predicted trembling aspen height of models using parameters that were determined to be significant by model averaging on each soil type

See Fig. 3.

Fig. 3
figure 3

Actual versus predicted trembling aspen height on each soil type. The solid line is the ideal 1:1 line and the dashed line is the linear relation between actual and predicted values

Appendix D: Actual versus predicted white spruce height of models using parameters that were determined to be significant by model averaging each soil type

See Fig. 4.

Fig. 4
figure 4

Actual versus predicted white spruce height on each soil type. The solid line is the ideal 1:1 line and the dashed line is the linear relation between actual and predicted values

Appendix E: Results of model selection for trembling aspen basal diameter prediction using AICc

See Table 10.

Table 10 Results of model selection for trembling aspen basal diameter prediction using AICc

Appendix F: Model averaged parameters for trembling aspen basal diameter

See Table 11.

Table 11 Model averaged parameter estimates and their 90% unconditional confidence intervals for trembling aspen

Appendix G: Results of model selection for white spruce basal diameter prediction using AICc

See Table 12.

Table 12 Results of model selection for white spruce basal diameter prediction using AICc

Appendix H: Model averaged parameters for white spruce basal diameter

See Table 13.

Table 13 Model averaged parameter estimates and their 90% unconditional confidence intervals for white spruce

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Tremblay, PY., Thiffault, E. & Pinno, B.D. Effects of land reclamation practices on the productivity of young trembling aspen and white spruce on a reclaimed oil sands mining site in northern Alberta. New Forests 50, 911–942 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-019-09705-0

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Keywords

  • Land reclamation
  • Picea glauca
  • Populus tremuloides
  • Tree productivity
  • Oil sands
  • Boreal forest