The Peatland Restoration Guide, Second Edition, is now available to view or download. This 106-page manual was written by Quinty, F. & L. Rochefort. in 2003.
The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, along with other peat producers and government agencies, has funded major restoration research over the past ten years. In total, more than $3,000,000 CDN of industrial support has been invested to find ways to speed up the restoration of bogs when harvesting is completed. A new investment phase has now been committed for the next five years for the Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management, lead by Dr. Line Rochefort (Peatland Ecology Research Group, Université Laval).
The Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG) was formed in 1992 and a multidisciplinary approach combining fundamental and applied research was adopted. This research project has been influential in making Canada a world leader in wise use management of peat resources. The common objective was and still is the integrated sustainable management of Canadian peatlands.
Over the last 10 years, the PERG has lead many projects, dealing with:
- the development of restoration techniques;
- plant recolonization after harvesting (inventory of eastern Canada’s harvested peatlands);
- hydrology, geochemistry, microbiology of natural, harvested and restored peatlands;
- peatland conservation strategies;
- the peatland populations of birds, arthropods, amphibians and mammals;
- Sphagnum ecology and productivity.
The results have been good, as the Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG) has developed basic techniques for the restoration of cutover peat fields. The techniques are based on active re-introduction of peatland plant fragments (diaspores) to cutover peat fields and on the use of various techniques to improve micro-environmental conditions for plant establishment. Sphagnum mosses, a key component of bog ecosystems, are able to establish new colonies following the spreading of the diaspores. Rewetting abandoned peat surfaces by blocking drainage ditches is also a necessary step for restoration, but is generally not sufficient to ensure successful establishment of newly reintroduced diaspores. The use of mulches and the presence of companion plant species greatly improve the hydrological and microclimatic conditions on the peat fields, facilitating survival and growth of the Sphagnum mosses. Machines widely used for agricultural or peat extraction purposes can be utilized to collect diaspores and spread plants and mulches, making these techniques compatible with the restoration of large peat surfaces.
| From Small to Large-Scale Experiments
Many experiments have been done before to develop an applicable technique in the field and with mechanize operations. The first experiments were carried out in growth chambers, with units as small as Petri dishes. Then, the first field trials were done in 25 x 25 cm plots! Now, what we consider “small-scale” experiments in the field are set up in plots of 5 X 5 m while large-scale trials are done on superficies of 15 ha and even more. Bois-des-Bel experimental site is one of the first large-scale sites (more than 8 ha) that has been completely restored with mechanical means in 1999-2000.
Whatever the method or scale used, experiments address fundamental hypothesis or applied questions about ecological restoration.
|Various measures, such as irrigation and protective covers, were compared within a single experiment to evaluate their effectiveness. These experiments were conducted first at small and medium scales. Their applicability to larger, real-world scales has then been evaluated afterwards. (Photo: F. Quinty)|
|Large scale experiment at Inkerman-Ferry: the drainage ditches surrounding the site were blocked and embankments were set up along topographic curves. Sphagnummosses and other peatland plants were re-introduced in 1998 and covered with straw mulch. (Photo: F. Quinty)|
Goals and Objectives of Peatland Restoration
The term “ecological restoration” means the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. In the case of peatland, the goal of restoration after peat harvesting is to re-establish self-regulatory mechanisms that will lead back to functional peat accumulating ecosystems. Of course, this process takes time, and short-term objectives of peatland restoration have also been defined:
- Re-establishment of a typical peatland plant cover, including Sphagnum mosses, a key species for a functional peat-accumulating ecosystem
- Re-establishment of the hydrological regime by blocking ditches and improving microclimatic conditions
|Mosses establishment 2 years after reintroduction of peatland plant fragments. (Photo: S. Campeau)|
|Experiment in Petri dishes looking at Sphagnumregeneration. (Photo: Clotilde Sagot)||Various measures, such as irrigation and protective covers, were compared within a field experiment to evaluate their effectiveness. (Photo: F. Quinty)|
Peatland Restoration Guide
From the research, a Peatland Restoration Guide has been written and most of the peat producers in the CSPMA are applying these techniques on bogs where harvesting has been completed.
The Guide recommends the following:
- As a pre-development strategy, a section of peatland should be preserved in a natural state in order to ensure a supply of plants for future restoration work.
- The conservation of a peat layer at least 50 cm thick facilitates the regeneration process.
- One of the most important steps in the actual restoration process is to restore water levels as close to the surface as possible by blocking drainage ditches every 50 metres. This is often done as the last step.
- Crowned fields should be reshaped to form a depression in the centre or be flattened in combination of creating bunds or shallow basins.
- Advice is offered on the choice and appropriate size of plant collection sites as well as on the actual collection and spreading of the plants.
- Mulch should be applied to create conditions favourable to the survival and growth of the applied plant fragments.
- A light phosphorous amendment improves the stability of the peat substrate through the stimulation of vascular plant growth.
- Follow-up of restoration work should be done on a yearly basis, preferably by the same observer, by monitoring plant cover on established observation stations.
- Regional variations, for example the frequent occurrence of strong winds or the absence of access to a plant source, require adaptation of the above restoration techniques.
- Research to improve the efficiency of existing methods and to measure the success of restoration efforts must continue.
The following is the six-step process described in the guide:
Goals and Objectives of Peatland Restoration
|A) Surface preparation – A leveller is used to flatten the domed field, scrape the peat surface and build berms. (Photo: S. Campeau)|
|B) Plant collection in a donor site – Surface vegetation is shredded to a depth of 10 cm using a rotovator. Plant fragments are then picked up and brought to the restoration site. (Photo: S. Campeau)|
|C) Plant spreading – A standard box manure spreader is used to spread the plant fragments. (Photo: S. Campeau)|
|D) Straw spreading to protect the reintroduced plant fragments. (Photo: F. Quinty)|
|E) Fertilization – A low phosphorus fertilization is used to facilitate the establishment and growth of mosses and vascular plants. (Photo: S. Boudreau)|
|F) Blocking drainage – This important step can be the last one, allowing to work with machinery. (Photo: F. Quinty)|
Complete and useful information about restoration operations in the field can be found in the second edition of the Peatland Restoration Guide.
|*Quinty, F. & L. Rochefort. (2003). Peatland Restoration Guide, 2nd Ed. Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association and New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and Energy. Québec, Québec. 106 p. (Available in both English and French)|
Restoring a whole peatland ecosystem: the case of Bois-des-Bel peatland
Based on the positive results gained from their research efforts, the research group initiated, in 1999, a large scale restoration project on a section of the Bois-des-Bel peatland, near Rivière-du-Loup (Québec). The 11.5 hectare site, which supported peat-harvesting activities until 1980, is within a relatively large natural peatland that allows comparison with the variety of conditions found in the natural peatland. Fieldwork was planned and implemented during workshops held with the active participation of Canadian peat producers.
|Removing peat to create a pool. (Photo: S. Campeau)||Straw spreading to protect the reintroduced plant fragments. (Photo: S. Campeau)|
|Sphagnum diaspores spreading in fall 1999, on Bois-des-Bel experimental site. The brown color on the ground is the Sphagnum diaspores, reintroduced at a ratio of 1:10 to 1:12. (Photo: S. Campeau)|
Principal objectives for this large scale restoration project include validation of restoration techniques, evaluation of hydrological processes, reconstitution of pools, determination of biological productivity and establishment of the nutritional elements cycle, identification of the point and conditions at which the site once again becomes a carbon sink and finally monitoring of re-establishment of site bio-diversity.
In the fall of 1999, site preparation including blocking of ditches, removal of shrubs, leveling of fields, creation of bunds across slope of drainage and creation of pools was carried out. Sphagnum diaspores, collected from nearby sites, were spread on 7 ha followed by an application of straw mulch and phosphorous fertilizers. A step-by-step video of the process and instructions produced by PERG can be purchased from the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association or PERG.
|Aerial view of Bois-des-Bel experimental site, restored in fall 1999 and fall 2000.
We can see the bunds across the slope and the 8 pools that were created.
After only 3 years following peatland restoration, the site of Bois-des-Bel shows a good perspective for a successful peatland ecosystem recovery.
For more information, see: Peatland Restoration
Bois-des-Bel site is the focus of an intensive monitoring program. A large data-base is being built for the long term monitoring regarding the evolution of the vegetation cover, hydrology, carbon fluxes, microbiology and chemistry, as well as the return of fauna. The photos represent a sequence in time of plant recolonization, 1, 2 and 4 years after restoration works. (Photo: S. Campeau)
And now… the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management
The Chair, led by Dr. Line Rochefort from Université Laval (Québec), will complement ten years of research carried out by the Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG). The Canadian peat moss industry has chosen to adapt to new international standards, and has agreed with enthusiasm to support the Industrial Research Chair to better manage peatland resources.
In fact, three research avenues will be explored for the next 5 years (2003 to 2008):
- Ecological restoration of peatland ecosystems after peat harvesting (the term “ecological restoration” means the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed).
- Reclamation of abandoned peatland (reclamation objectives is the stabilization of the soil surface, assurance of public safety, aesthetic improvement, and usually a return of the land to what, within the regional context, is considered to be a useful purpose).
- Production of Sphagnum biomass for developing new growing mixes.
For more information, see NSERC’s Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management.
Note: The NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management has been extended for the next 5 years (2008 to 2013). For this term’s research topics see Scientific program of the 2008-2013 Industrial Research Chair.