Response of Ground and Rove Beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae, Staphylinidae) to Operational Oil Sands Mine Reclamation in Northeastern Alberta, a Case Study

Resource Type
James Hammond
Philip Hoffman
Brad Pinno
Jaime Pinzon
Jan Klimaszewski
Dustin Hartley

Species loss caused by anthropogenic disturbance threatens forest ecosystems globally. Until 50 years ago, the major sources of boreal forest disturbance in western Canada were a combination of forest wild fire events, pest insect outbreaks, and forest timber harvesting. However, in the 1960s, when the oil boom started in Alberta, oil and gas development along with oil sands mining quickly became another major forest disturbance agent. In this case study we report the effects of operational oil sands mine reclamation on terrestrial arthropod communities and compare them with nearby burned and mature forest sites as a way to provide a benchmark from which to understand the long-term trajectory of recovery for these groups. During the summer of 2016 over 6700 epigaeic beetles were collected using pitfall traps. A total of 43 species of ground beetles and 118 species of rove beetles were collected. Epigaeic beetle assemblages differed between the reclaimed, burned, and mature forest sites. Partitioning of beta diversity in the reclaimed, burned areas and mature forests indicated that species turnover formed the largest component of diversity. Species richness patterns were similar among sites; however, cluster analysis indicated that epigaeic beetle assemblages were only 20% similar between the reclaimed and natural sites. Although ground beetles of the reclaimed area showed positive spatial autocorrelation among treatments, both ground and rove beetles showed responses to the reclamation treatments. The reclaimed areas were dominated by small- to medium-sized open-habitat eurytopic species, whereas the fire and mature forest sites were dominated by larger forest species. The reclaimed area of this case study constitutes a novel, reconstructed ecosystem that is clearly not equivalent in species assemblage to burnt stands of similar age or to mature forest stands.