Using Aquatic Mesocosms to Assess the Effects of Soil and Vegetation for Informing Environmental Research

Resource Type
Jim Davies
Ryan Melnichuk
Craig Aumann
Zhongzhi Chen
Brian Eaton
Resource Date:

An aquatic mesocosm facility consisting of thirty 15,000 L tanks was constructed in Vegreville, Alberta to support environmental research. In 2017, an experiment was conducted as an inaugural run for the facility; this study continued through the winter of 2017/18 (over-wintering is a unique capability of the facility) and concluded in the fall of 2018. Here, we report key methods used to evaluate the effects of two independent variables: (1) a soil layer covering the floor of the mesocosms, and (2) vegetation installed in the mesocosms. Although a range of response variables were measured during this study, we limit our analysis here to the physicochemical (e.g., pH, turbidity, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen) and biological/ecological response variables (e.g., macrophytes, phytoplankton/metaphyton, and macroinvertebrates) that differed due to these two variables. The presence of a soil layer covering the floor of the mesocosm was associated with increased turbidity on some days and depths in 2017. Specific conductivity was higher in the presence of soil and its associated adventitious vegetation. During this initial study, we gained a better understanding of the characteristics and mechanics of the mesocosms, which informs design and implementation of future experiments.