Hawkes, VC & Donald, G 2012, 'Reclamation monitoring in the Athabasca oil sands region of Canada using a long-term plot network', in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2012: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Mine Closure
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 717-728, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1208_60_Hawkes
Oil sands mine operators in the Athabasca oil sands region of northeastern Alberta are required to revegetate disturbed land to target the establishment of a self-sustaining, locally common boreal forest integrated with the surrounding area. The Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organisation based in Fort McMurray, Alberta, whose role is to produce recommendations to government regulators pertaining to the cumulative impact of oil sands development in northeastern Alberta. These recommendations include guidance documents for revegetation to forest ecosystems and a criteria and indicator framework for reclamation certification. To support the development of the guidance documents, CEMA manages a long-term plot network that includes permanent sample plots on reclaimed lands and in natural, undisturbed mature forest stands. A review of the monitoring conducted from 2000–2010 on the long-term plot network recommended modifications to the plot network to support the implementation of an adaptive management framework that would achieve an evaluation of: (1) the effectiveness of the revegetation guidance outlined in the guidance documents; (2) the physical and biological indicators identified through research initiatives as suitable measurement parameters to demonstrate that a self-sustaining, locally common boreal forest is establishing on the reclaimed lands; (3) the efficacy of management activities applied on the reclaimed lands to support the establishment of self-sustaining forests; and (4) whether reclaimed lands are achieving thresholds required to qualify for reclamation certification.
This paper presents the regulatory context for revegetation planning and outlines how modifications to the CEMA long-term plot network will support the implementation of an integrated monitoring program that will assess the efficacy of the guidance documents and the progress of current reclamation practices towards achieving the goal of establishing a self-sustaining boreal forest on reclaimed lands in the Athabasca oil sands region. An adaptive management framework incorporating a modified long-term plot network would provide an opportunity for the monitoring data to describe the ecological condition of the reclaimed lands and to define appropriate management strategies for achieving the revegetation goals.
Alberta Environment (2006) Land Capability Classification System for Forest Ecosystems in the Oil Sands, 3rd Edition, Vol. 1: Field Manual for Land Capability Determination, Prepared for Alberta Environment by the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Alberta Environment (2010) Guidelines for Reclamation to Forest Vegetation in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region, 2nd Edition, Prepared by the Terrestrial Subgroup of the Reclamation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, Fort McMurray, Alberta, December 2009.
Alberta Environment and Water (2012) Best Management Practices for Conservation of Reclamation Materials in the Mineable Oil Sands Region of Alberta, Prepared by D. MacKenzie for the Terrestrial Subgroup, Best Management Practices Task Group of the Reclamation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, Fort McMurray, Alberta, March 9, 2012.
Bampfylde, C., Hughes, S., Page, D., Purdy, B., Stanley, S. and Syed, A. (2010) Compiling a geospatial database of existing oil sands industrial features for Alberta Environment, in Proceedings Canadian Geomatics Conference 2010, June 15–18, Calgary, Alberta.
Beckingham, J.D. and Archibald, J.H. (1996) Field guide to ecosites of Northern Alberta, Canadian Forest Service, Northwest Region, Northern Forestry Centre, Special Report 5.
Carter, S.L. and Bennetts, R.E. (2007) The road to integrating science and management: planning your next trip using hierarchical objectives and assessment points, The George Wright Forum, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 78–93.
de Souza, F.M. and Batista, J.L.F. (2004) Restoration of seasonal semi-deciduous forests in Brazil: influence of age and restoration design on forest structure, Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 191 (2004), pp. 185–200.
Gaines, S.D. and Denny, M.W. (1993) The largest, smallest, highest, lowest, longest and shortest: extremes in ecology, Ecology, Vol. 74, pp. 1677–1692.
Government of Alberta (2010) Alberta’s Oil Sands Reclamation, viewed 12/05/2012,
Hawkes, V.C., Muir, J.E. and Enns, K.A. (2012) Long-term Plot Network Assessment, LGL Report EA3309, Unpublished report by LGL Limited environmental research associates, Sidney, BC, for CEMA – The Reclamation Working Group (RWG), Fort McMurray, Alberta, 79 p.
Machmer, M. and Steeger, C. (2002) Effectiveness monitoring guidelines for ecosystem restoration, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia, 18 p.
MacKenzie, D.D., Amponsah, I.G., Bergstrom D.W. and Anderson, H.B. (2011) Defining best management practices for conservation of reclamation materials in the mineable oil sands region of Alberta, in Proceedings Sixth International Conference on Mine Closure (Mine Closure 2011), A.B. Fourie, M. Tibbett and A. Beersing (eds), 19‒21 September 2011, Lake Louise, Canada, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, Vol. 1, pp. 125–132.
Morrison, M.L. (2001) Introduction: concepts of wildlife and wildlife habitat for ecological restoration, Restoration Ecology, Vol. 9, pp. 251–252.
Nyberg, B. (1998) Land Management Handbook No. 42, Statistics and the practice of adaptive management, in Statistical Methods for Adaptive Management Studies, V. Sit and B. Taylor (editors), B.C. Ministry of Forests, British Columbia, pp. 1–8.
Poscente, M. and Charette, T. (2011) Criteria and Indicators Approach for Oil Sands Mine Reclamation Interim Report, Prepared for the Reclamation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, Fort McMurray, Alberta, July 25, 2011.
Society for Ecological Restoration (2004) The SER international primer on ecological restoration, Version 2 in Society for Ecological Restoration International Science & Policy Working Group, Society for Ecological Restoration International, viewed 20/06/2012,
Straker, J. and Donald, G. (2010) Developing the guidelines for reclamation to forest vegetation in the Athabasca oil sands region, Unpublished report by Integral Ecology Group Ltd., Donald Functional and Applied Ecology Inc., and Terrestrial Subgroup, Reclamation Working Group, Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium 2010, 14 p.
Taylor, B., Kremstaer, L. and Ellis, R. (1997) Adaptive Management of Forests in British Columbia, Forest Practices Branch, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria, British Columbia, 93 p.
Timberline (2009) Installation and remeasurement of permanent sample plots: 2009 year end report, Unpublished report for the Soil and Vegetation Working Group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), Fort McMurray, Alberta, 15 p.
Tongway, D.J. and Ludwig, J.A. (2011) Restoring disturbed landscapes putting principles into practice, Society for Ecological Restoration and Island Press.