Oil Sands Soil Reconstruction Project Five Year Summary

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  • Treatment plots were established on the Syncrude Canada Ltd. Oil sands mine site to test the effect of a variety of mixtures of peat, mineral overburden, and tailings sand on establishment of an initial vegetation cover and productivity of planted trees and shrubs. Treatments consisted of nine combinations of peat and overburden, each mixed to depths of 20 and 40 cm. Application of peat provided the greatest benefit in terms of soil physical and chemical properties, especially plant available moisture. Overburden application increased nutrient status but had a detrimental effect on plant available moisture. Increased thickness of the reconstructed layer retained more moisture near the surface. An initial ground cover established more quickly with increasing peat, overburden, and thickness. Seedling survival after five years was higher for most species with increasing peat but lower with overburden application. Conifers grew better with increasing peat while most species had poorer growth with increasing overburden. Growth was also slightly better on the thicker reconstructed soils.

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