Presented by: Shannon O'Dwyer
Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are a threatened species federally and provincially in Alberta. Habitat restoration is critical to maintaining suitable habitat to support healthy populations. Current reclamation criteria in Alberta do not support practices that facilitate the restoration of low productivity black spruce and lichen-dominated ecosystems which are important predator refuge and foraging habitats for caribou. At a steam assisted gravity drainage facility in northeastern Alberta, a trial program was developed to recover caribou habitat on six well sites in bog or fen habitats. The six sites underwent habitat restoration in 2014 with each site split into quadrants with four treatment types: i) inverted mound, planted with black spruce seedlings and transplanted reindeer lichen mats, ii) non-inverted mound, planted with black spruce seedlings and transplanted reindeer lichen mats, iii) planted black spruce seedlings and transplanted reindeer lichen mats, and iv) a control area with no mounding, planting or lichen transplantation. Results over three monitoring events have shown promising results. Success of the treatments was measured by health of lichen mats, height and density of seedlings, and overall ground cover of vegetation species. It was found that mounding treatments appear to be returning the OSE wells back to caribou habitat more quickly than the planting only and control treatments. Mounding treatments give planted black spruce seedlings a head start and have taller trees than the planting only treatment.