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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ecosystem Restoration

Nitrogen Mineralization and Microbial Activity in Oil Sands Reclaimed Boreal Forest Soils


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 5, p. 1470-1478
    Received: Dec 9, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): sylvie.quideau@ualberta.ca
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  1. R. McMillan,
  2. S. A. Quideau *,
  3. M. D. MacKenzie and
  4. O. Biryukova
  1. Dep. of Renewable Resources, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, AB Canada T6G 2E3


Organic materials including a peat-mineral mix (PM), a forest floor-mineral mix (L/S), and a combination of the two (L/PM) were used to cap mineral soil materials at surface mine reclamation sites in the Athabasca oil sands region of northeastern Alberta, Canada. The objective of this study was to test whether LFH provided an advantage over peat by stimulating microbial activity and providing more available nitrogen for plant growth. Net nitrification, ammonification, and N mineralization rates were estimated from field incubations using buried bags. In situ gross nitrification and ammonification rates were determined using the 15N isotope pool dilution technique, and microbial biomass C (MBC) and N (MBN) were measured by the chloroform fumigation-extraction method. All reclaimed sites had lower MBC and MBN, and lower net ammonification and net mineralization rates than a natural forest site (NLFH) used as a control, but the reclamation treatment using LFH material by itself had higher gross and net nitrification rates. A positive correlation between in situ moisture content, dissolved organic N, MBC, and MBN was observed, which led us to conduct a moisture manipulation experiment in the laboratory. With the exception of the MBN for the L/S treatment, none of the reclamation treatments ever reached the levels of the natural site during this experiment. However, materials from reclamation treatments that incorporated LFH showed higher respiration rates, MBC, and MBN than the PM treatment, indicating that the addition of LFH as an organic amendment may stimulate microbial activity as compared to the use of peat alone.

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Copyright © 2007. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyAmerican Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America