Using Carex aquatilis as a biological assessment tool in monitoring salt-impacted Boreal Peatlands
Cowan, Carrie Dawn
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SubjectBiological indicator species; Boreal; Carex Aquatilis; Peatlands; produced water spills; Salt contamination
Saline water is produced as a result of extracting hydrocarbons from geological formations and is brought to the surface during the extraction process. Understanding salinity impacts in the Boreal peatlands in Northern Alberta is important to the responsible development and management of these valuable ecosystems. Although there are regulatory guidelines to support and direct remediation and reclamation efforts of contaminated sites, a knowledge gap exists within current criteria and better understanding of how salinity impacts the boreal wetlands is needed. Salt tolerance mechanisms demonstrated by Carex aquatilis may provide an alternative, non-intrusive way to monitor the health of Boreal wetland communities. Using meta-analysis and simple linear regression analysis, a negative relationship was detected between relative frequency of occurrence of Carex aquatilis and salt-contamination (represented as electrical conductivity values as high as 17,000 S/cm). This trend is the first step in creating a framework for biological assessments useful in salt-contaminated peatlands.
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