Spontaneous Revegetation of a Peatland in Manitoba after Peat Extraction: Diversity of Plant Assemblages and Restoration Perspectives

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Felix Gagnon
Line Rochefort
Claude Lavoie
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There are very few studies on the spontaneous revegetation of cutover fens or bogs from which peat has been extracted to the minerotrophic layers. Most peatlands with fen-type residual peat have problems regenerating a plant cover satisfactorily from a restoration point of view. We nevertheless found a site (Moss Spur, Manitoba, Canada) presenting a substantial and diversified spontaneous plant cover. We estimated that the site would provide insights about natural revegetation processes operating in peatlands. Vegetation assemblages and environmental conditions were surveyed 19 years after extraction activities ceased. Moss Spur has densely revegetated (163 plant species, vegetation cover of 94%) with minimal human assistance. However, the composition of plant assemblages varies considerably across the site, depending on certain abiotic variables, particularly water pH, water table level, and the thickness of the residual peat layer. Moss Spur was remarkably wet considering the past peat extraction activities and the absence of active rewetting procedures. The high water table level may in part explain the successful revegetation. However, plant assemblies were not of equal quality from a restoration perspective. Some assemblages were highly diversified, and especially those dominated by Scirpus cyperinus, a species that should be further considered in peatland restoration projects to direct the recovery of the peatland towards a natural fen species composition.