Canadian Forest Service Publications

Plant traits as indicators of recovery of reclaimed wellsites in forested areas: Slow but directional succession trajectory. Azeria, E.T., Santala, K., McIntosh, A.C.S., Aubin, I., Forest Ecology and Management (2021) 468:118180

Year: 2021

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40492

Language: English

Series: Internal Report (GLFC - Sault Ste. Marie)

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.

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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 forest understory plant communities and their traits in oil and gas well sites disturbed at various times in the past (7-48 years) and for which reclamation activities have been conducted. These sites were then compared to reference sites in natural and post-harvest forests. As time since disturbance increased, we found that the species present in reclaimed sites possessed some traits that were similar to those found in reference sites, but not consistently. Notably, reclaimed sites remain dominated mainly by species possess traits linked with effective resource use, such as exotic species, compared to traits characteristic of slower growing species found in reference sites. We also found a strong link between environmental variables and plant traits, likely because of the enduring effects of well site operations even after these sites have been reclaimed. Knowledge of plant species composition and their associated traits could greatly improve our understanding of the recovery process in reclaimed ecosystems and inform more effective restoration practices in these highly affected landscapes.