Scientific program of the 2013-2018 Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management
The Chair aims to improve knowledge of methods for restoring peatland ecosystems after peat extraction. It also provides an opportunity to improve knowledge of sustainable peatland development and, in some cases, to add agronomic value — for instance, by cultivating Sphagnum fibers to amend growing substrates or to be reintroduced for restoration.
The third term of the Chair will complement 20 years of research conducted by the Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG) in partnership with the Canadian peat industry. The industry recognizes the importance of responsible resource management based on proven, scientific ecological principles for environmental, social and economic benefits. But management must also take action, choosing to either facilitate natural recolonisation or to restore the ecosystem. To help facilitate intervention decision-making during restoration of peat-accumulating functions in commercial peatlands or development of sustainable ways to produce Sphagnum biomass, this Chair program will focus on the biology of key accumulating plant species and how to facilitate their return into the degraded wetland ecosystems found in various regions of Canada. To accomplish this, three research topics will be examined:
1) Plant propagation of fen species: Experiments involving storage, stratification and growing conditions will be conducted on typical native fen species, in collaboration with horticulture -or agriculture- oriented colleges and native plant nurseries.
2) Establishment and facilitation of fen and bog species in degraded peat ecosystems: Efforts will be made to improve the establishment and facilitation of fen and bog species in degraded peat ecosystems, including a case study on post-fire plant colonisation and succession in a rich fen. The bog restoration method developed during the previous terms of the Chair will be adapted to fens by researching nurse species, in situ seed sowing, liming and fertilization during restoration, and invasive plant control. The survival of stored plant material will also be studied.
3) Biology of Sphagnum: Eco-hydrological relationships of key Sphagnum species will be examined (to find optimal water levels with relation to species interactions), as will the reduction of decomposition rates at the base of the carpet, to increase biomass accumulation in Sphagnum farming basins.
Developing a sound theoretical base for the ecological restoration of peatlands (bogs, fens and wet meadows) will benefit Canadians. Obviously, conservation of resources prior to their degradation is desirable, but new visions for addressing sustainability are needed and ecological restoration is one such option. A fundamental reason to support ecological peatland restoration research is to enhance the links between ecological theory and restoration, broadening knowledge in the field of ecology.