Establishment and vegetation survey of 16 Pinus banksiana – dominated permanent plots for the Athabasca oil sands ecological monitoring project in 1981

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  • Sixteen, undisturbed, 5-hectare, permanent plots dominated by Pinus banksiana (jack pine) were established along an impingement gradient of atmospheric emissions from oil sands processing plants north of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta in August of 1981. Four plots were burned over by wildfire shortly afterwards and will belong to the very young age-class (1-10 yrs) until 1991. Seven plots are young age-class (11-50 yrs) and four are middle age-class (51-110 yrs). Fourteen plots are located on Eluviated Dystric Brunisols derived from sand; two plots are on Gray Luvisols derived from clay-rich, stoney till. One 50 x 50 m reference stand was grid-staked into 100 5 x 5 m sampling units in each permanent plot for long-term, ecological monitoring purposes. The vascular plant and bryophyte- lichen community components of each reference stand were quantitatively surveyed for species composition, species richness, species structure, and species dominance hierarchy. Stand ages were determined from tree increment cores. All reference stands have low % covers of trees, forbs, graminoids, and pteridophytes; most have a moderate cover of dwarf shrubs and a relatively high cover of terrestrial lichens; some have moderate covers of tall shrubs and feather mosses. Vascular species richness and equitabi1ity seem to increase with increasing soil moisture but are not correlated with either stand age or tree cover. Terrestrial lichen cover decreases and feather moss cover increases with increasing vascular species richness. In terms of % cover, the dominant plant species of the permanent plot system in 1981 were: Pinus banksiana, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry), Vaccinium vitis-idaea (lingon-berry), Vaccinium myrtilloides (blueberry), Linnaea borealis (twin flower), Maianthemum canadense (wild lily of the valley) in the vascular component; and Cladina mitis (Reindeer lichen), Cladonia gracilis, Cladonia cornuta, Peltigera malacea, Polytrichum piliferum (hair-cap moss), Pleurozium schreberi (red-stem feather moss) in the bryophyte-lichen component.

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