Community Level Physiological Profiling for Monitoring Oil Sands Impacts

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  • Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF) conducted a review of microbial Community Level Physiological Profiling (CLPP) as a means of monitoring aquatic ecosystem health for the Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN). Relevant research was compiled from journal articles, the websites of government and non-governmental organizations, and in-house experimental results. The objective of the project was to better understand and describe the potential for CLPP to provide meaningful assessments of aquatic ecosystems in the oil sands region of Alberta to various stakeholder groups. Ecological monitoring techniques are used to assess the effects of industrial development in the region, and to assess the effectiveness of reclamation efforts. Current techniques, while effective, are difficult and expensive to implement on a regional scale. As a group, microbial community profiling technologies offer the potential to screen multiple systems rapidly, inexpensively, and relatively easily, compared to traditional assessment methods. CLPP has the potential to be the easiest and least expensive microbial profiling technology. However, some technical advancements must still be made before its full potential can be realized. Beyond this, a significant body of background information regarding the effect of a number of environmental variables on the profiles produced by CLPP must be compiled, both as a source of reference information and to better define the performance characteristics of the assay. A number of organizations conduct ecological research and/or monitoring in the region. Some (e.g., RAMP, AENV) could see direct benefits from the incorporation of CLPP into their operations. Others (e.g., CONRAD, CEMA) may realize a lesser degree of benefit. Organizations focussing on specific aspects of aquatic ecosystems (e.g., DUC, DFO) are unlikely to see their missions advanced by the adoption of CLPP as an ecological monitoring tool. Overall, we recommend investment of time and resources into CLPP and microbial community profiling in general. The expenditures required are likely to be quite small compared to the potential utility of the technology.

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    Attribution 3.0 International