Soils of permanent sample plots in the Athabasca oil sands area

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  • Soils of permanent sample plots were investigated to provide baseline data for research related to monitoring of terrestrial ecosystems. More specifically, the objective of this project was to provide information on the kinds, characteristics, and distribution of soils in 16 permanent sample plots, each of about 5 ha area, established during 1981. The background and general purpose of the project are outlined in the Terms of Reference appended to this report. General information about distribution and characteristics of soils in the oil sands area is provided in a report on the soils inventory of the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program study area (Turchenek and Lindsay 1982). Emphasis in 1981 was placed on selecting permanent sample plots with jack pine vegetation communities on Eluviated Dystric Brunisols. These soils are members of the Mildred and Heart soil groups which are described in the report of Turchenek and Lindsay (1982). Both of these soils groups are composed predominantly of Eluviated Dystric Brunisols. The Heart soils have developed in eolian sands while Mildred soils have formed in sandy glaciofluvial materials. Both soil groups are very sandy and usually contain less than 5% fine materials (clays and silt). The Mildred soils normally have a variable content of coarse fragments (larger than 2 mm) while Heart soils have no coarse materials. Two permanent sample plots were established in the Richardson Hills Upland. Soils in this area belong to the Firebag soil group; they have developed on sandy, gravelly and stony glaciofluvial ice-contact deposits, but are otherwise similar to the Mildred and Heart soil groups. In this project, samples for laboratory analysis were taken from one or two sites within each permanent sample plot. For additional data and for making comparisons, analytical data for Heart, Mildred, and Firebag soils can be found in Volume 2 of the report by Turchenek and Lindsay (1982). Other soil surveys conducted in the general area are those of Hardy Associates Ltd. (1980) for the Alsands lease, and Twardy (1978) for portions of the Syncrude lease. Information about general properties, moisture movement and retention, and nutrient cycling in soils near the AOSERP Mildred Lake research facility can be found in the report of McGill et al. (1980).

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