Canadian Forest Service Publications
Foliage Chemistry of Pinus baksiana in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region, Alberta, Canada. 2016. Proemse, B.C.; Maynard, D.G.; Mayer , B. Forests, 7(12), 312.
Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 38907
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Industrial emissions in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR), Alberta, Canada, have caused concerns about the effect of oil sands operations on the surrounding terrestrial environments, including jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) stands. We collected jack pine needles from 19 sites in the AOSR (13–128 km from main operations) for foliar chemical analyses to investigate the environmental impact on jack pine. Pine needles from three age classes, the current annual growth (CAG, 2011), one year and two year old pine needles, were collected. Samples were analyzed for total carbon (TC), nitrogen (TN), and sulfur (TS), inorganic S (SO4-S), base cations (Ca, Mg, Na), and other elements (B, Cu, Fe, Mn, P, Zn); CAG needles were also analyzed for their nitrogen and carbon isotopic compositions. Only TN, TS, Ca, B, Zn, and Fe contents showed weak but significant increases with proximity to the major oil sands operations. C and N isotopic compositions showed no trend with distance or TC and TN contents. Total S contents in CAG of pine foliage increased significantly with proximity to the main industrial operation while foliar inorganic S to organic S ratios (SO4-S/Sorg) ranged consistently between 0.13 and 0.32, indicating low to moderately high S loading. Hence, this study suggests some evidence of uptake of S emissions in close proximity to anthropogenic sources, although the reported values have not reached a level of environmental concern.
Plain Language Summary
Industrial emissions in the Athabasca Oil Sands region (AOSR), near Fort McMurray Alberta, have caused concerns related to the environmental effects of acid deposition on nearby jack pine stands. An enhanced forest health network of 19 jack pine sites was sampled in 2011 to assess potential effects of acid depositon. Current, 1-year-old and 2-year-old jack pine needles were sampled from five trees per site. All samples were analyzed for carbon (C), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), inorganic sulfate, base cations (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium) and several metals (Aluminum, boron, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus and zinc) associated with oil sands development. Current needles were also analyzed for their N and C isotopic composition. Only N, S, Ca, B, Zn and Fe contents showed weak but significant increases with proximity to the major oil sands operations. C and N isotopic compositions showed no trend with distance or TC and TN contents. Foliar inorganic S to organic S ratios (SO4-S/Sorg) in needles of all age classes were consistently low (<0.32), representative of forest stands un-impacted by elevated S deposition. Our study demonstrates that jack pine stands at sites further 15 km distance appear un-affected by industrial developments in the region.