Present and potential effects of anthropogenic activities on waters associated with peatlands in Alberta

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  • A literature review and problem analysis of the present and potential effects of human activities in peatlands on the quality and quantity of associated waters is presented in this report. The specific objectives were to describe: 1. The present state of knowledge about waters associated with peatlands in Alberta. 2. The kinds of anthropogenic activities which may have an impact on waters associated with peatlands in Alberta. 3. The potential impact of anthropogenic activities on waters associated with peatlands. 4. The significant deficiencies in information and knowledge with regard to Alberta peatlands, and recommendations for further action, if required. Premises The area of peatlands in Alberta is estimated at 12.7 million hectares, accounting for about 19% of the total land area of the province. There has been relatively little use of peatlands in Alberta and in the rest of Canada, although some types of peatland exploitation are increasing. The utilization of peatlands in other parts of the world has been shown to have various effects on the environment, particularly with regard to the downstream quality and quantity of water. There is increasing use of peatlands in Alberta, especially for agriculture, forestry, and horticultural peat moss extraction. Peatlands can also be affected by pollutants, particularly the deposition of acidic and acid-forming substances. Because of the considerable area of peatlands in Alberta, the increasing uses of peatlands for various purposes, and the potential impacts of pollutants, there is concern about the effects on the quality of waters associated with peatlands. Consequently there is a need for an initial review of the nature and extent of these problems in Alberta, and for identification of those areas that require further attention. Methods The objectives indicated above were addressed through a review and analysis of pertinent world and local literature. The nature, properties, and functions of peatlands are reviewed in the first few chapters of the report. This is followed by an examination of the kinds and extent of activities which may affect peatlands in Alberta and, based on the literature from other provinces and countries, a review of the actual hydrochemical and hydrological impacts which could occur.

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