The Peatland Ecology Research Group works in partnership with the Canadian peat industry since its inception through various Collaborative Research and Development grants (CRD) and, from 2003 to 2018, the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management. Here is an overview of the collaboration between the peat industry and PERG.
Work in partnership with the Canadian peat industry has so far led to the development of innovative baseline techniques for peatland restoration following the abandonment of peat harvesting activities and the development of integrated peat management strategies of the the resource.
The restoration of peatland ecosystems is a lengthy process. The success of restoration is evaluated by assessing the long-term evolution of plant communities and the return of other ecosystem functions (e.g. hydrology, carbone cycle, productivity, biogeochemistry, etc.). The Bois-des-Bel peatland, an 11 hectares (ha) site which was harvested, abandoned for 20 years, and finally restored in 1999-2000, is our first outdoor laboratory. A second large scale experimental site has been established in 2009 during the second term of the industrial research chair. This is the fen of Bic-Saint-Fabien, which is also located in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.
Monitoring of other large-scale restored sites and satellite imagery also allow us to follow the restoration process. Additionally, new restoration techniques are developed to deal with a variety of conditions encountered in peatland restoration (e.g. laggs and marshes).
However, some sites have been too severely disturbed by peat mining to be restored to a peat accumulating ecosystem, the ultimate goal of peatland restoration. Methods of rehabilitation of abandoned sites have been developed during the Chair (2003-2018), including berry production and tree plantations. These two alternatives will improve the economic and aesthetic values of these areas.
Another aspect focuses on the development of the culture of Sphagnum mosses to produce the fiber used in growing media, a resource that we want renewable within a fairly short time to allow commercial use.
Since May 2018, collaboration between the Canadian peat industry and PERG researchers has been under a Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The research topics of this grant are:
1) Managing for diversity;
2) Managing for water regulation and water quality;
3) Managing for carbon sequestration;
4) Managing for Sphagnum biomass.