Maximizing Natural Trembling Aspen Seedling Establishment on a Reclaimed Boreal Oil Sands Site

Resource Type
Bead Pinno
Ruth Errington
Resource Date:

Actively facilitating the natural establishment of trees on reclamation sites is seen as an important step in ecosystem recovery after oil sands mining. We examined the effect of different reclamation prescriptions, including two soil types (peat-mineral mix and forest floor-mineral mix) and two fertilizer levels (200 kg N ha–1 and no fertilizer), on naturally established trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) seedlings and other deciduous trees. Aspen has a tiny, windblown seed which is very sensitive to moisture stress during establishment. Seedling establishment was greatest on peat-mineral mix soil with no fertilizer application and was related to the increased surface roughness and soil moisture and lack of vegetation competition with this soil prescription. Surprisingly, seedling establishment was not related to microsite characteristics such as concavity. Once established, average seedling height was not significantly different among soil types or fertilization treatments. Overall, using peat-mineral mix soil and increasing surface roughness offer a starting point for developing best management practices for facilitating natural deciduous tree seedling establishment in this region.