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Land reclamation and forest science

Cenovus Energy’s Christina Lake oil sands drilling project, located 150 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, requires specialized methods to drill and pump the oil to the surface.

Photo courtesy of Cenovus Energy Inc.

The forest science expertise of Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service (CFS) aims at improving land reclamation results and the restoration of forest landscapes while also advancing the environmental performance of Canada’s oil and gas industry.

Improving forest land reclamation with Canadian Forest Service expertise

Land reclamation is the process of turning disturbed land into its former or other desired state.

Forest landscape in northern Alberta.

In Canada, land reclamation efforts are most often directed at land disturbed during natural resource development, including mining and oil and gas operations. Because this development often takes place in forested areas, re-establishing healthy, resilient forest ecosystems is an important part of land reclamation and landscape restoration. Forests provide many “ecosystem services,” such as carbon storage and nutrient cycling. CFS expertise in this area is contributing significantly to returning forests to healthy states.

Current CFS land reclamation research is focusing on the oil and gas sector, including oil sands mining and in situ operations. However, the knowledge and practices developed for that sector can be applied to other natural resource sectors across Canada.

The need for forest science solutions in land reclamation is growing

Hundreds of major resource projects are either underway or planned in the next 10 years in Canada. Most of the projects are in the energy and mining sectors, and most will take place in forest regions.

Given the extent and duration of these developments across the country, governments and the resource sectors themselves recognize that improving environmental performance of current and future operations is critical. New scientific knowledge and technologies are needed to inform and guide reclamation policies and practices that will enhance reclamation of forest land for a variety of uses, such as wildlife habitat, commercial forestry, or wild berry forage grounds.

Land reclamation research projects are already finding solutions

Petasites palmatus, a native plant species, growing on a forest floor – mineral mix soil capping treatment, two years following reclamation of an oil sands site.

Reconstructing forest ecosystems on reclaimed oil sands mining sites

Several CFS research projects are investigating ways to rebuild healthy, resilient boreal forest ecosystems following oil sands development. Work to date includes comparing the establishment and growth of trees and other forest vegetation in response to various reclamation practices and to natural regeneration in the region.

 
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