Seismic line forest recovery
Photo: Scott Nielsen
ACE Lab researchers examining seismic line recovery after fire
Forest recovery and successional trajectories on seismic lines
Northeast Alberta, Canada
Graduate Student
Ph.D. candidate (May 2016)
Status: Active, 2016

Angelo is studying the recovery/regeneration of seismic lines created by oil sands exploration and extraction, the largest contributor of forest fragmentation in northeastern Alberta. Seismic lines contribute to changes in biodiversity and in particular, to declines in woodland caribou. However, natural rates of recovery on seismic lines are largely unknown. Understanding where natural recovery is occurring or is arrested, as well as how fire affects these processes, is therefore a priority. Lastly, Angelo is examining the effectiveness of active restoration treatments and where they will be most beneficial.

Oil sands exploration and extraction in northeastern Alberta have affected the boreal forest in a number of ways, particularly through habitat fragmentation. The largest contributor of fragmentation from in situ oil sands is seismic lines. We will be investigating leave-for-natural passive forms of restoration as well as active restoration treatments. First, we will look at areas with extreme conditions in available soil moisture as this has a strong effect on patterns of regeneration. Second, we will investigate active restoration treatments being applied to seismic lines within woodland caribou range. Third, we will quantify the length of time it takes trees that are naturally growing on seismic lines to reach different heights and thus recovery trajectories. Lastly, we will use this information to predict patterns of establishment and growth rates in a spatially-explicit manner within the Lower Athabasca region in order to model recovery dynamics in time and space. Such information can be used to help prioritize future seismic line restoration efforts. Early results suggest fire is beneficial for jack pine regeneration, particularly under moderate to high fire intensities. Interestingly, higher regeneration rates were consistently observed on seismic lines after wildfire when compared to adjacent burned forest stands.