Summary of Resiliency of Reclaimed Boreal Forest Landscapes Seminar

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  • Ecological resilience, first defined by Holling in 1973, can be broadly described as the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly, but other authors have provided variations on this theme since 1973. Ecological resilience is one potential measure of the goal of a self-sustaining ecosystem and is being considered for inclusion in the Cumulative Environmental Management Association’s Criteria and Indicators Framework for assessing reclamation success in oil sands mines. For reclaimed lands to be considered self-sustaining they should respond to natural and anthropogenic disturbances in a similar manner to an analogous undisturbed landscape might respond to the same disturbances. The University of Alberta’s Department of Renewable Resources and the Oil Sands Research and Information Network jointly hosted a one-day seminar on January 22, 2013 at the University of Alberta to discuss the concept of ecological resiliency and how it can be applied to reclaimed landscapes. 108 people from a variety of organizations and technical interests attended the seminar. There was general agreement amongst the presenters that resilience is a valuable topic to consider in reclamation planning. However, there was also agreement that implementing management systems based on resiliency would require a shift away from managing for consistency and single objectives (e.g., soil depth, stems/ha), to a system that embraces change and is focused on ensuring ecological processes are reintroduced to reclaimed landscapes (i.e., resiliency). Some of the key ecological processes that were identified included: nutrient cycling and moisture availability; soil characteristics (e.g., pH, nutrient availability, propagules, soil biota, etc.); understory plant diversity (particularly when species are matched to the correct ecosite); presence of keystone species; and the proper construction of landforms which include slope, aspect and variability in their design. The seminar was, by design, focused on providing information about the concept of ecological resilience and its potential application to land reclamation. The seminar participants recommended further sessions to bring the high-level concepts down to on-the-ground application. There was also interest in holding a similar session in a year’s time to provide more information and to focus on getting more technical detail, perhaps by focusing on specific research and implementation projects.

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    Attribution 3.0 International