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Issue 50 | August 2020

Looking for more wetlands resources? Check out the Canadian Conservation and Land Management Wetlands Knowledge Portal! New resources are continually being added.
Explore the Portal!

Alberta Wetland Field Guide - Call for photo submissions

Ducks Unlimited Canada is looking for photographs of Alberta's wetlands and common wetland indicator plants to contribute to the development of an Alberta Wetland Field Guide. Follow the link below to learn more about the guide and how to submit your photos!
Submit Photos Here

Monthly Webinar Series

Are you interested in giving a webinar on a wetland-related topic? We are always looking for presenters and would love for you to contact us.

We will be taking a break from hosting webinars over the summer months and will resume in the fall. In the meantime, check out recordings of our past webinars here.

Drainage Reduces the Resilience of a Boreal Peatland

Peatlands are incredibly resilient ecosystems but drier conditions, due to drainage for industrial development or climate warming, can affect their ability to adapt to environmental stresses. Biological and hydrological feedbacks maintain peatlands and their carbon storage functions; however, their resiliency to these changes is unknown. Harris et al. (2020) explored the implications of peatland drainage on the resiliency of peatlands by assessing their ability to act as carbon sinks by comparing plant production, water table level, and surface moisture content between a drained peatland and an undisturbed peatland in the Hudson Bay Lowland.

Harris et al. found that the water table at the drained sites was approximately 70 cm lower than at the undisturbed site causing a significant decrease in plant production, specifically in Sphagnum spp. The reduction in Sphagnum spp. reduced the surface moisture at the site and reduced the site's ability to act as a carbon sink when bare peat is left exposed. The relationship between the three influences suggests that drainage negatively impacts peat production and risks mass carbon loss due to changes in ecosystem function. Learn more here.

Results From and Experimental Black Spruce Forest Crown Fire

Wildfires pose a severe risk to habitat and resource availability for humans and animals that live in the boreal forest. Techniques such as prescribed burns, thinning, and pruning are used to suppress wildfires. To assess the effectiveness of thinning as a suppression technique, Thompson et al. (2020) conducted an experimental burn in a black spruce peatland in northern Alberta. They compared the intensity, rate of spread, and fuel consumption of a fire in the thinned black spruce peatland to that of an unsuppressed wildfire.

The study site ground cover consisted of primarily feather mosses due to the low light conditions present before thinning the black spruce canopy. Thompson et al. found that although the reduced fuel load from thinning reduced fire intensity, it was only marginal as the abundance of feather moss resulted in burns that were ten times deeper compared to sites dominated by Sphagnum spp. The reduced moisture content of feather mosses compared to Sphagnum spp. helped maintain the rate of spread and the fuel consumption in the thinned site. Thompson et al. suggest that future studies should focus on active suppression measures such as suppression with water rather than passive treatments such as thinning. Learn more here.

Dissolved Organic Carbon Dynamics in a Constructed Fen

Surface mining in the Athabasca oil sands region in northeastern Alberta has affected close to 1,000 km² of the land base. This area is rich in wetlands, with approximately 50% of the pre-disturbance landscape classified as wetlands, most of which are peatlands. Following mining operations, companies must return the land to equivalent land capability - either forested upland or wetland. Peatland reclamation can be extremely challenging in mined landscapes due to the high salinity. As part of the Canadian Geophysical Union (CGU) Summer Webinar Series, Emily Prystupa shared her research on the effects of salinity on constructed peatland function.

Water at Prystupta's study site passes through a tailing sand aquifer, which increases the amount of sodium and sulfate that flows into the fen. This increase in sodium can influence the rate of decomposition by stressing the microbial community responsible for decay and thus increasing the amount of carbon released by plant roots. Prystupta described this carbon as lower quality as its smaller molecule size allows for more carbon to leave the system. For more information check out Emily's webinar or thesis, You can also check out past CGU webinar recordings and keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information on their last Hydrology webinar of the summer on August 28th.

About the Knowledge Exchange
This is a venue for sharing boreal wetland best management practices information with the goal of raising awareness, increasing information transfer, and fostering collaboration amongst industry, government, academic, consulting, and other interested stakeholders.

For more information, visit our website. For past issues visit our archive

Join the conversation

Please contact us if you have upcoming events, new and ongoing research, opportunities for collaboration, new publications, or any other wetlands BMP related work that you are interested in sharing. Your participation strengthens the Knowledge Exchange and helps promote information sharing among our many user groups. So please, get in touch

Participate in the Wetland BMP Knowledge Exchange by writing an article, giving a webinar, or sharing an interesting project and be entered to WIN a Ducks Unlimited Canada crossing sign. The draw will take place at the end of the year (December 2020)! 

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Upcoming events

For a full list of upcoming events, check out our Events Calendar!

Canadian Geographical Union Online Research Seminars
Ongoing – Weekly on Fridays until the end of August

Canadian Institute of Forestry 2020 National Conference & Annual General Meeting
September 15-17, 2020

Global Institute for Water Security - 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series
Weekly on Wednesday starting September 23, 2020

Columbia Mountains Institute: Fundamentals of Science-Based Vegetation Surveying Course
September 23-24, 2020

The Wildlife Society's 2020 Annual Conference
September 28 - October 2, 2020

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2020
December 1-17, 2020

Take a look through our archive of past Wetland BMP Knowledge Exchange webinars

Interested in land-use planning? Check out a selection of online courses available here

In the News

Why do we want to conserve peatlands?

Nuns are turning a convent into a wetland to fight flooding in New Orleans

Researchers discover meat-eating plant in Ontario, Canada

Heat waves, wildfire & permafrost thaw: the North’s climate change trifecta

Scientists record rapid carbon loss from warming peatlands

Ecosystem - At the Root

Beavers are Gnawing Away at Arctic Permafrost 

How and Why We Need to Adapt Our Environmental Monitoring to a Changing Planet 

New Indigenous Student-Led Youtube Series: Ohneganos Let's Talk Water

Wind farms built on carbon-rich peat bogs lose their ability to fight climate change

Did you know?

Nature-based solutions defy traditional infrastructure development, termed 'grey infrastructure' as solutions to environmental issues. Instead, nature-based solutions focus on the restoration and protection of natural environments to utilize their natural processes to mitigate disturbances and their effects. 

Grey infrastructure relies on the use of non-renewable materials and are often temporary and quickly become outdated. While nature-based solutions may require maintenance, their enhanced resilience to climate change typically provides long-term solutions compared to grey infrastructure.


One example of nature-based solutions is treatment wetlands. Treatment wetlands are used in urban and agricultural areas to improve water quality. They can also be used for recreational opportunities and to enhance aesthetics. Treatment wetlands can help protect communities from drought and flooding and are very reliable due to their resilience to environmental changes. Learn more about nature-based solutions here and treatment wetlands here.

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