Canadian Forest Service Publications

Uncovering traits and recovering grasslands: A functional assessment of oil and gas well pad reclamation. 2020. Lupardus, R.C.; Azeria, E.T.; Santala,K.; Aubin, I.; McIntosh, A.C.S. Ecological Engineering: X 5: 100016.

Year: 2020

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40102

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoena.2019.100016

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Plain Language Summary

Understanding the underlying processes affecting post-disturbance ecosystem succession can have practical implications in land use management and restoration practices. We lack, however, a good understanding of the long-term recovery of areas affected by severe, human-induced disturbances. To address this, we examined changes in plant communities and their traits in 18 reclaimed grassland sites in southern Alberta disturbed by previous oil and gas activities (8-30 years since reclamation). These sites were then compared to reference sites in natural grasslands. Young well pads, reclaimed using more recent approaches and criteria, show evidence of expected ecological patterns after disturbance. These sites have a higher prevalence of plants and plant traits characteristic of sites at an early to mid-successional stage. On the other hand, old reclaimed well pads are not showing signs of ecological succession towards conditions typical of undisturbed grasslands. The old reclaimed well pad sites are characterised by plants possessing a narrower range of traits than those at the reference site. Knowledge of plant species composition and their associated traits can greatly improve our understanding of the recovery process in reclaimed ecosystems and inform more effective restoration practices in these highly affected landscapes.