Peatland Ecosystem Ecology

Red Earth Creek Bog, Alberta, Canada

We have several research projects designed to examine peatlands and how they function under potentially increasing fire frequency (climate-change induced) in combination with potentially enhanced nitrogen deposition (from Oil Sands Mining in northern Alberta, Canada).

Monitoring Oil Sands Area bog exposure to increased levels of N and S

This project was originally funded by WBEA (Wood Buffalo Environmental Association) and continues today through Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) with funding to continue this research through 2020. This project focuses on how local current and historic atmospheric deposition affects nutrient cycling and bog health in the Oil Sands Mining area. Our sites are very close to the mining areas near Fort McMurray, and at these bogs, we measure inputs of N and S from the atmosphere while also exploring vegetation and water chemistry changes in the bogs themselves.  2016 was a very active fire year in the Fort McMurray area and one of our sites was burned completely, while two other sites maintained minor fire damage.  We established two new sites this year (summer of 2018) bringing the number of bogs we monitor up to six. 

Nitrogen and Fire

This project began with NSF Rapid funds the summer of 2012 (Grant No. 1143719)  with a wildfire burning one of our research sites, and was expanded to 5 bogs in 2013 with NSF funding (Grant No. DEB-1256985) . We have established plots across northern Alberta based on a chronosequence of bogs which have burned at various points in the past 125 years. We are exploring how Nitrogen and Carbon are linked and how the processes change with both the age of a bog and increased Nitrogen deposition.  We hope to continue to use these site infrastructures to expand our research in the coming years.

Synoptic Surveying

This project, also funded by WBEA, was designed to determine if a single sampling of bogs in the Oil Sands Mining Area could allow for a predictive measure of depositional influence on each bog sampled.  We also hope to expand this project to a multitude of sites near the mining areas in Alberta in the coming years.

Effects of Increased Nitrogen input on Bogs and Fens

Funded by CEMA (Cumulative Environmental Management Association). For five years, we experimentally adding varying amounts of Nitrogen to both a bog and a fen. With increasing pollution from Oil Sands Mining activities, there is a concern that we will reach a point where atmospheric inputs are causing detrimental changes to the wetlands. We are documenting those changes in these systems and have provided valuable data that will hopefully be used to advise legislators and scientists, alike.

 

Moss from Alberta Bog

The Research Team

Melanie Vile, Assistant Professor, Geography and the Enviroment

R. Kelman Wieder, Professor, Biology

Students:

  • Kristen Jensen, MS, GEV

Technicians:

 

Bog ground cover