Mineland Reforestation and Water Quality: Quantifying Biotic Influences

PROJECT TITLE: Mineland Reforestation and Water Quality: Quantifying Biotic Influences on Total Dissolved Solid Delivery to Surface Waters

SPONSOR: Powell River Project

PROJECT DURATION: 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2016

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Brian Strahm, Kevin McGuire, John Seiler

COLLABORATORS: Carl Zipper (CSES)

GRADUATE STUDENTS: Amy Gondran, M.S.

PROJECT SUMMARY: Recommended reforestation practice, the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA), includes guidelines for loose dumping and grading of topsoil substitutes.  While highly beneficial to seedling survival and productivity, there are also concerns that such practices will increase infiltration, weathering, and total dissolved solid (TDS) generation from reclaimed mined lands.  Much of the focus of Powell River Project and other associated work aimed and mitigating TDS loading to surface waters has been on chemical (e.g., topsoil substitute selection) and physical (e.g., geological confinement) approaches.  Less is known about the potential optimization of biological systems to minimize TDS leaching, despite the fact that forest vegetation removes a large proportion of precipitation inputs through evapotranspiration, and a majority of the ions making up typical TDS are nutrients required by plants in relatively large amounts.  Thus, this project will test the concept that rapidly aggrading forests can decrease TDS generation through a decrease in the quantity of water leaving the rooting zone (from increased evapotranspiration), and by decreasing the concentration of TDS nutrient ions in percolating waters (from plant demand and uptake).  Optimizing biological reclamation strategies to improve water quality would provide reclamation professionals with an economically feasible approach to compliment existing efforts to maintain regional surface water quality.

LINKS:

Powell River Project