Topsoil Handling During Pipeline Construction in Potentially Arable Forested Luvisols of Northwest Alberta

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  • The objective of this study was to evaluate several pipeline topsoil stripping depths to determine whether they result in land capability equivalent to that of adjacent forested lands broken for cultivation. Topsoil stripping depths were 0 cm, 15 cm and 30 cm. Soils chosen for the study were Orthic and Gleyed Gray Luvisols located south and west of Beaverlodge in northwestern Alberta. The study site was covered with a mature aspen/poplar forest prior to construction. Percent soil organic matter, pH, electrical conductivity, and sodium adsorption ratio, soil strength and particle size distribution on the pipeline trench were compared with pre-disturbance soils and with adjacent controls (which were cleared of forest and subsequently broken for agriculture using breaking practices typical for this area) . Forage biomass, percent cover and species composition comparisons between controls and the trench were made.
    Five years after construction, no differences between the trench and control areas in any of the vegetation parameters were found on any of the three stripping treatments. Any differences in soil quality were found not to affect vegetation productivity. Control data tended to be more variable than data for the trench. Topsoil from all three stripping treatments was rated 'good' in terms of organic matter 5 years after construction. No stripping (0 cm) of topsoil resulted in lower soil quality compared to the control in some instances, but the agricultural capability ratings for all treatments and their controls were equivalent.

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    TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.