Canadian Forest Service Publications
Response of ground and rove beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae, Staphylinidae) to operational oil sands mine reclamation in northeastern Alberta, a case study. 2018. Hammond, H.E.J.; Hoffman, P.G.K.; Pinno, B.D.; Pinzon, J.; Klimaszewski, J.; Hartley, D.J. Journal of Insect Conservation (2018) 22:687-706.
Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 39732
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Species loss caused by anthropogenic disturbance threatens forest ecosystems globally. Until 50 years ago, the major sources of boreal forest disturbance in western Canada were a combination of forest wild fire events, pest insect outbreaks, and forest timber harvesting. However, in the 1960s, when the oil boom started in Alberta, oil and gas development along with oil sands mining quickly became another major forest disturbance agent. In this case study we report the effects of operational oil sands mine reclamation on terrestrial arthropod communities and compare them with nearby burned and mature forest sites as a way to provide a benchmark from which to understand the long-term trajectory of recovery for these groups. During the summer of 2016 over 6700 epigaeic beetles were collected using pitfall traps. A total of 43 species of ground beetles and 118 species of rove beetles were collected. Epigaeic beetle assemblages differed between the reclaimed, burned, and mature forest sites. Partitioning of beta diversity in the reclaimed, burned areas and mature forests indicated that species turnover formed the largest component of diversity. Species richness patterns were similar among sites; however, cluster analysis indicated that epigaeic beetle assemblages were only 20% similar between the reclaimed and natural sites. Although ground beetles of the reclaimed area showed positive spatial autocorrelation among treatments, both ground and rove beetles showed responses to the reclamation treatments. The reclaimed areas were dominated by small- to medium-sized open-habitat eurytopic species, whereas the fire and mature forest sites were dominated by larger forest species. The reclaimed area of this case study constitutes a novel, reconstructed ecosystem that is clearly not equivalent in species assemblage to burnt stands of similar age or to mature forest stands.
Plain Language Summary
After a site has been used for oil sands mining, a reclamation process is undertaken to return the land to a state that is as close as possible to its natural state. Arthropods (including insects and spiders) are good indicators of the ecological health of a landscape, and therefore they may be better indicators of the success of reclamation efforts than the physical or chemical properties of the site. The authors sampled ground beetles and rove beetles on a landscape in northern Alberta that had been used for oil sands mining to see how they responded to reclamation practices. For comparison, they also sampled these types of beetles in mature forest stands as well as in forest stands that had been burned by wildfire. They collected a significantly lower biomass of beetles from the reclaimed area than from the mature forest stands. The reclaimed area was dominated by small- to medium-sized beetle species that prefer open habits, whereas the burned and mature forest sites were dominated by larger species that prefer forests. The authors state that long-term monitoring is needed to track how plants and animals recover on reclaimed lands over time, and rigorous experiments are needed to measure the true effects of reclamation techniques.