[BEN-L]BEN # 422

Adolf Ceska aceska at telus.net
Wed, 10 Mar 2010 11:35:53 -0800


BBBBB    EEEEEE   NN   N             ISSN 1188-603X
BB   B   EE       NNN  N
BBBBB    EEEEE    NN N N             BOTANICAL
BB   B   EE       NN  NN             ELECTRONIC
BBBBB    EEEEEE   NN   N             NEWS
=20
No. 422                              March 10, 2010
=20
aceska@telus.net                     Victoria, B.C.
-----------------------------------------------------------
 Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
-----------------------------------------------------------

UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA HERBARIUM (UVIC) CLOSED UNTIL AUGUST 31, 2010

From: Geraldine Allen, University of Victoria, Victoria BC, Canada Phone
250-721-7097 email: herb@uvic.ca or gallen@uvic.ca

The Herbarium of the University of Victoria will be closed from February =
12
to August 31, 2010, while our building undergoes a seismic upgrade. =
Skeleton
operations will be continuing in a temporary location on campus (phone,
email and mailing address remain the same). Loans may be returned during
this period, but the main collection will not be accessible for loans or
visits during this time. =20


ALBERTA TAR SANDS IN THE INTERNATIONAL MIRE GROUP CONSERVATION GROUP
NEWSLETTER

PART 1: PEATLANDS AND OIL SANDS, SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
by Martha Graf & Line Rochefort =
http://www.imcg.net/imcgnl/pdf/nl1001.pdf=20

Canada=92s boreal region is one of the largest intact ecosystems on the
planet, containing a quarter of the world=92s frontier forests (Bryant =
et al.
1997). It provides habitat for migratory songbirds, waterfowl, bears, =
wolves
and the world=92s largest heard of caribou. Canada=92s boreal zone is of
international importance because it stores more fresh water in its =
wetlands
and lakes and more carbon in its soils, forests and peat than anywhere =
else
in the world (Schneider & Dyer 2006). The boreal region of northern =
Alberta
is described as a mosaic of wetlands and uplands with wetlands making up
over 50% of the land base. Of these wetlands, over 90% are peatlands =
(Vitt
et al. 1996). Peatland complexes are dominated by wooded fens and bog
islands (Vitt et al. 1996).

Oil sand mining

In this same region, oil sands mining development is occuring at an
astonishing pace. Since 2000, the industry has expanded significantly, =
and
production now exceeds one million barrels crude oil per day (Bott =
2000).
Approximately 2 tons of oil sand is needed for each barrel of oil. The =
total
area deemed suitable for surface mining is circa 2500 km 2 and active =
mining
is occurring on over 250 km 2 (Woynillowicz et al. 2005). When this area =
is
fully developed, it will probably be the world=92s largest open-pit =
mining
complex (Schneider & Dyer 2006).

Although currently most oil sands mining is occurring in open-pit sites,
other mining techniques will become increasingly important in the next
decades. Over 80% of the oil sands deposits are deep below the surface =
and
must be extracted using =91in-situ=92 techniques (Alberta Energy and =
Utilities
Board 2005). The primary technique used is injecting high- pressure =
steam
into the underground deposits which liquefies the bitumen so that it can =
be
piped to the surface (Bott 2000). If all available resources are mined, =
the
area affected by in-situ mining would correspond to 138,000 km 2 =96
approximately the size of Florida and fifty times larger than that of =
the
open pit mined area (Schneider & Dyer 2006).

Oil sand mining: impact on peatlands

The energy sector has been identified as the greatest source of =
disturbances
to peatlands of boreal Alberta (Forest 2001). Habitat destruction =
associated
with open-pit mining leaves huge ecological footprints (Figure 1b). To =
date,
approximately 500 km 2 have been disturbed (Grant et al. 2008). =
Thirty-one
percent of this landscape is covered by peatlands =96 approximately 155 =
km 2
of peatlands thus have been destroyed, which adds up to 0.15% of the
disturbed peatlands in Alberta as estimated in 1995 (Vitt et al. 1996).

Where pre-mined landscapes are dominated by peatlands, post-mined =
landscapes
will be dominated by lakes which currently cover 130 km 2 , or 27% of =
the
post-minded landscape (Grant et al. 2008). These lakes contain water
contaminated with higher salinity, naphthenic acids and heavy metals =
(Grant
et al. 2008). Will peatlands be able to establish in areas with high
concentrations of oil sand process affected water? Pilot projects are =
being
undertaken by the two largest oil companies to =91recreate=92 peatlands =
in the
post-mined landscape (Graf et al. 2009; Wytrykush et al. 2009). Research =
is
being conducted by the oil companies to target peatland plants that will
tolerate water affected by the mining process. Linear disturbances
associated with conventional oil and gas as well as in situ oil sands =
mining
(i.e. roads, pipelines, seismic lines, power transmission lines) are
considered less intensive because they essentially leave the landscape
intact (Figure 1c). However, due to the sheer geographical extent of =
these
disturbances, some believe they have the single largest impact on boreal
peatlands of Alberta (Forest 2001). Applications for 924,016 km of =
seismic
lines were approved between 1979 and 1995, over 88,588 well sites =
existed by
June 1997, and over 73,103 km of pipeline have been laid by December =
1996 in
northern Alberta (Alberta Environmental Protection 1998).

The main effects on peatlands caused by these disturbances are 1)
fragmentation of the
landscape, 2) destruction of habitat, 3) changes to hydrology caused by
drainage and compaction, and 4) soil and water contamination from
hydrocarbon spills or mineral/clay soils used for construction. The best =
way
to mitigate these effects is through improved management practices and
restoration of affected areas which are no longer in use.=20

Conservation issues=20

Northern Alberta is mainly public land. In 1993 the Alberta Water
Resource Commission released a draft policy for managing peatlands in
Alberta=92s unsettled area. The unsettled area makes up 53% of Alberta =
and
contains the majority of the province=92s peatlands. This policy was =
never
ratified and currently there is no policy for provincial peatland
conservation or management in Alberta. The provincial draft policy does =
not
endorse a =93no net loss of wetland functions=94 principle like the =
federal
policy does. Alberta Environmental Protection (1994) provided a course
guideline for protecting 400 km 2 of peatlands in the oil sands region;
however, reserves have not been set up. Vitt et al. (1996) criticize =
these
conservation guidelines because bogs and fens with internal lawns are
underrepresented.=20

These landforms represent high landscape heterogeneity and
should be a priority for conservation (Vitt et al. 1996). The vast =
majority
of disturbed peatlands are not restored. Presently, the Alberta =
government
does not require decommissioned well sites, roads or pipelines located =
in
wetlands to be restored back to wetlands (Alberta Environment 1995), and =
it
will not require this in the near future (Reclamation Criteria Advisory
Group, 2008). Creating peatlands in the post-mined landscape of open-pit
mining has begun, but will address only a small percentage of the =
landscape.
While development of the oil sands area is certain, the footprint of =
these
disturbances could be reduced greatly by improved management practices =
and
restoration of sites after decommissioning.=20

References

Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. 2005. Alberta=92s reserves 2004 and
supply/demand outlook 2005-2014, Report ST98-2005.

Alberta Environment. 1995. Reclamation criteria for wellsites and =
associated
facilities: 1995 Update. Available online at:
http://environment.gov.ab.ca/info/posting.asp?assetid=3D6855&categoryid=3D=
4 =20

Alberta Environmental Protection. 1994. Report 3 Alberta Protected Areas
System Analysis.  Alberta Environmental Protection, Natural Resources
Service and Protected Area Division, Natural Heritage Planning and
Evaluating Branch.

Alberta Environmental Protection. 1998. The final frontier: Protecting
landscape and biological diversity within Alberta's Boreal Forest =
Natural
Region. Special Areas Report No. 13. Alberta Environmental Protection,
Natural Resources Service and Protected Area Division, Natural Heritage
Planning and Evaluating Branch.=20

Bott, R. 2007. Canada=92s Oilsands. Canadian Centre for Energy =
Information.
Calgary, AB.

Bryant, D., D. Nielsen & L. Tangley. 1997. The last frontier forests:
ecosystems and economies on the edge. World Resources Institute, =
Washington,
D.C.

Forest, S. 2001. Peatland management and conservation in boreal Alberta,
Canada. MSc Thesis from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta,
Canada.

Graf, M., J. Price, L. Rochefort and F. Rezanezhad. 2009. Creating =
peatlands
in the oil sands region of Alberta: Challenges and opportunities. Paper
presented in the 34th Annual Meeting and Conference of the Canadian Land
Reclamation Association, Quebec City, Qu=E9bec.=20

Grant, J., S. Dyer, & D. Woynillowicz. 2008. Fact or fiction: oil sands
reclamation. Pembina Institute.
Available online at:
http://pubs.pembina.org/reports/Fact_or_Fiction-report.pdf

Reclamation Criteria Advisory Group. 2008. 2009 Wellsite
reclamation criteria draft for practitioners=92 workshop.

Schneider, R. & S. Dyer. 2006. Death by a thousand cuts:
Impact of in situ oil sands development on Alberta=92s
boreal forest. Pembina Institute.=20
http://www.oilsandswatch.org/pub/1262=20

Vitt, D.H., L.A. Halsey, M. Thormann and T. Martin. 1996.
Peatland Inventory of Alberta. Prepared for the Alberta
Peat Task Force, National Center of Excellence in
Sustainable Forest Management, University of Alberta,
Edmonton.

Woynillowicz, D., Severson-Baker, C., Raynolds, M.,
2005. Oil sands fever: The environmental implications of
Canada's oil sands rush. The Pembina Institute, Drayton
Valley, Alberta.

Wytrykush, C., G.T. McKenna, A.G. Papini, and E.B.
Scordo. 2009. Reclamation design for a fen wetland on a
tailings sand deposit in northern Alberta. Paper presented
in the 34th Annual Meeting and Conference of the
Canadian Land Reclamation Association, Quebec City,
Qu=E9bec.


PART 2: AFTER-WORD ON OIL SANDS AND PEATLANDS
by Tatiana Minaeva, International Mire Conservation Mire Group, =
Newsletter,
Issue 2010/1, January 2010 http://www.imcg.net/imcgnl/pdf/nl1001.pdf=20

If we look at oil sand mining, what do we see? On first view we see
disaster. If our Russian oil companies need a green leaf to demonstrate =
how
=91clean=92 they are, they could compare themselves to companies mining =
oil
sands in Alberta, Canada. The open mining areas are an ecological
catastrophe. Even if you base your assessment only on the promotional =
videos
of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
(http://www.capp.ca/canadaIndustry/oilSands/oil-sands-videos/Pages/Oil-Sa=
nds
-Tour.aspx#ObTMGDIpNpmM  ), the feeling of apocalypse hardly escapes =
you.

So, what is the problem?

First of all the entire destroyed area is really
very large. It is unique even in the mining industry that the open cast =
mine
itself covers 5-15 km 2 and the adjacent destroyed lands 30-40 km 2 .
Secondly, the open cast mine covers the entire wetland landscape =
starting
directly from the Athabasca river bank and spreading through the valley =
to
terraces and the watershed. Thirdly, we are dealing with the unique
situation where a large area of peatland is destroyed without even using =
the
peat. The only parallel would be construction of infrastructure, but =
even
there the peat is often utilized. And the size is definitely less. There =
is
no chance to restore the original peatland ecosystems because of the
complicated hydrology of the landscape shaped by thousands of years of
sedimentation processes. We are not just looking at a few raised bogs =
here,
but at a mosaic of bogs and fens and shallow forested peatlands. And
finally, the scale of impact of hundreds of square kilometres of bare
mineral soil particularly on mesohydrological processes has not been
evaluated and is not understood. The new landscape replaces the =
complicated
mosaic of deep and shallow peatlands, streams, mineral upland forests =
etc.
The water flow from watershed to river is severely interrupted in a =
stretch
of 60-90 km along both sides of the Athabasca River.

All these problems come combined with a complicated Canadian =
legislation,
with a land use decision making tool that depends on plenty of =
conditions
hardly connected to environmental conditions and consequences. Project =
cycle
design, regulations and conservation should specifically also address
peatlands.=20

The lakes that are created by open cast mining are not
restoration objects. These lakes are mainly created to store water in =
order
to reuse it in the extraction process. But why must these toxic ponds be
situated so close to the river? At present the water quality will not =
allow
terrestrialisation by peat formation.=20

Currently, the =91restoration=92 practice
for open cast mining areas entails filling up with left-over sand, =
levelling
and planting trees =96 a far cry from the natural mosaic of peatlands,
paludified lands and dry forest lands.=20

The =91restoration=92 practice for =91in
situ=92 mining areas is afforestation which of course does not include =
closing
ditches as that contradicts the forester mentality.

The Canadian compensation practice in this case focuses on wetlands and =
does
not include peatland as a separate compensation object. It allows
compensation of one type of water object by any other type. A lost creek =
can
be compensated by an artificial lake. One company created a lake to
=91replace=92 a peatland with 8 m peat depth. Nonrecognition of =
peatlands as
valuable ecosystems is of course a general problem worldwide. Peat use =
is
not an issue for the oil companies. Some of the peat is stored for use =
as
surface soil in restoration projects, but it is unclear how much is =
treated
as waste. It is thus impossible to calculate the peat turnover and =
carbon
balance. The integrated climate effect of oil sands should besides the
direct emissions from combustion, include emissions from land use. The
emissions caused by deforestation are reported by Canada under the Kyoto
protocol, but the loss of soil organic carbon (peat) is not included in =
this
conversion from =91forest land to other land=92. Also emissions from the =
drained
peatlands for in-situ operations and tailing ponds in open mining should =
be
included. Oil sands production is economically feasible only if the oil
price is above 70 USD. If oil and gas remain the main energy source the
importance of the Canadian oil sands will only increase. The area of the
deposits is huge and so is the potential area of impact on the boreal
peatland-forest landscape. Companies are spending large sums of money on
mitigation and restoration measures. The question remains whether
appropriate knowledge exists with the responsible scientists. =
Comprehensive
understanding of ecosystem functions and services is needed where in
contrast the restoration objects are usually as small as the budget and =
the
outcome often dictated by economic interests or by the oil companies
themselves hiring the scientists. Mitigation, restoration and =
compensation
practices can certainly be improved. The first step should be to develop =
a
national plan for oil sand mining, focussing not only on energy =
interests,
but addressing wider demands of climate, biodiversity and landscape
integrity.=20


BOOK REVIEW: URBAN FLORA OF PORTLAND, OREGON
From: Aaron Liston, Oregon State University Herbarium, Corvallis, OR =
e-mail:
listona@science.oregonstate.edu

Christy, J.A., A. Kimpo, V. Marttala, P.K. Gaddis, N.L. Christy. 2009.
Urbanizing Flora of Portland, Oregon, 1806-2008. Occasional Paper 3 of =
the
Native Plant Society of Oregon. 319 pp. ISSN 1523-8520. [softcover]. US =
$15.
Ordering information: http://www.npsoregon.org/publications.html

Don=92t judge this book by its title. The word =93urbanizing=94 is not a =
common
one, and even if it is familiar to you, reading about the decline of =
native
plants and their replacement by those adapted to an urban environment =
may
not strike you as an enjoyable read. Perhaps more attractive is the =
prospect
of learning about the past 200 years of botanical activity in the =
Portland
area, and that is the subject of the first 60 pages of this book. Topics
include a chronology of botanical exploration in the region, biographies =
of
the principal plant collectors, and the historic and modern vegetation =
and
habitats of Portland-Vancouver region. The text is well-illustrated with
historical photographs of the city environs and the botanists who =
collected
here. This section concludes with a thorough analysis of the factors
contributing to the historical and ongoing changes in Portland=92s =
flora, and
provides an excellent perspective on the dynamic interplay between =
native
and exotic plants in an urban environment.
Several well-known plant collectors played important roles in the =
botanical
history of the region, but the star of this story is Martin Gorman
(1853-1926). Gorman=92s profession was accounting, while his passion was
botany. He was also a founding member of the Oregon Alpine Club and =
Mazamas,
and curator of the Forestry Building from 1906-1926.  Built for the 1905
Lewis and Clark Exposition, the Forestry Building was a =93hub of =
botanical
activity=94 during Gorman=92s tenure. Gorman collected about 200 plant =
specimens
from the Portland area, and most importantly, he wrote several articles =
on
the region=92s flora, culminating in his List of Plants in the Vicinity =
of
Portland, Oregon published in 1916 and 1917. Tragically, the botanical
journal Muhlenbergia ceased publication before the complete manuscript =
was
published, and the issue containing the last instalment (over 200 =
species)
was never distributed! One of the most significant contributions of =
Christy
et al. is the first publication of Gorman=92s complete species list and =
notes
(transcribed from the only known original housed in the University of
Oregon=92s Knight Library).  Gorman=92s information is conveyed in =
tabular
format, together with other historical and current information. This
=93catalog=94 fills 186 pages, and encompasses 1553 native and =
naturalized
plants known within the same region that Gorman defined: a 15 mile =
radius
from downtown Portland.  One column of the table combines Gorman=92s =
text in
bold with other historical records (gathered from herbarium specimens =
and
other publications). A second column summarizes the =93current =
condition=94 of
each plant including whether it is native or exotic, rare or common, its
period of introduction, modern records, and miscellaneous comments. Much
fascinating information is contained in this table, and it is an =
extremely
valuable resource for anybody interested in the plants, and changing =
flora,
of Portland and the Pacific Northwest.=20

An extensive bibliography and six appendices complete the text. These
include a gazetteer, additional excerpts from Gorman=92s papers =
containing
many observations of historical interest, and lists of 580 rare native
plants, 312 rare exotic plants and 279 ballast plants (it was a popular
pastime among Portland area botanists to collect the plants that grew =
from
the soil used by ships for weight, transported around the globe, and =
dumped
on the banks of the Columbia River in Portland).=20
The five authors are to be congratulated for producing a valuable =
addition
to our understanding of the interactions of plants and people in the =
Pacific
Northwest. They expertly combine historical scholarship with a =
comprehensive
presentation of the current Portland flora. The floristic treatment is =
based
on the authors=92 own botanizing, extensive data from herbarium records
compiled by the Oregon Flora Project, and several other sources. The =
book is
an important reference for Oregon and Washington botanists, and =
establishes
a well-documented baseline for future studies of the region=92s flora.

*********************************************
Adolf & Oluna Ceska
1809 Penshurst Rd., Victoria, BC  CANADA V8N 2N6
250-477-1211 (home)
250-216-1481 (cell/mobile)
BEN archive: http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/
*********************************************