Low-impact Line Construction Retains and Speeds Recovery of Trees on Seismic Lines in Forested Peatlands

Angelo Filicetti
Jesse Tigner
Scott Nielsen
Katherine Wolfenden
Murdoch Taylor
Paula Benthamd
Resource Date:

Seismic lines, linear features originating from the oil and gas industry for energy exploration, pose a substantial management challenge due to their collective impact on biogeochemical cycles, plant and animal abundance and behavior, predator-prey relationships, and forest successional trajectories. The historical construction methods, involving bulldozers to clear vegetation and substrate, have left these lines as persistent openings in a state of arrested succession. In the mid-1990s, the introduction of "low-impact seismic" (LIS) line construction aimed to minimize environmental impact by using mulchers to remove aboveground vegetation. This study focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of LIS in promoting retention, recruitment, and growth of seedlings in forested peatlands in northeast British Columbia. The findings reveal that retained and recruited trees on LIS lines were present at 69% and 64% of the sites, with mean densities of 3400 and 6000 stems/ha, and mean heights of 42 and 11 cm, respectively. The observed trajectory of recovery along these LIS lines indicates a positive trend toward increased tree cover, mitigating challenges associated with older seismic exploration methods. The results suggest the feasibility of expediting line recovery by optimizing mulcher drum height to enhance the number and height of trees during the mulching process.