Under certain conditions, the restoration of a cutaway peatland to a Sphagnum dominated peatland is not possible. For example, donor site for natural bog plant material might not be available locally, the rewetting process might be too complex or the peat substrate has been completely extracted leaving a clay or sandy subsoil. When restoration can not be implemented or is non-desirable, reclamation by which another vocation to the site is given might be considered. The main objectives of reclamation 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.
Some interesting options for cutaway peatlands are plantation of shrubs and trees and berries production. As the peat mining is a relatively young industry that has begun on a large-scale basis only in the 1950s, few peat fields have been abandoned so far. Consequently, very little expertise has been developed in the field of peatland reclamation in Canada. Collaboration with Northern Europe scientists and engineers is essential.
This research program is part of the Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management. We want to assess the potential for shrub and tree plantations (larch, spruce, pine, etc.) and for production of berries (cloudberry, chokeberry, etc.) on cutover and cutaway peatlands in Canada.
Production of berries in peatlands
Berries or small fruits were and have always been a part of humankind's diet. Certain berries, such as blueberries and cranberries, have gained economic importance and have been widely studied and cultivated, while lesser known species remain unsung in terms of cultural practices or the market development.
In Quebec, many people agree that production of indigenous berries could revitalize the economy of rural areas and such initiatives are being spearheaded at local levels. Since the peat industry is mainly located in rural areas, it is clear that production of berries following peat extraction could have significant socio-economical advantages for these areas. However, this type of production must be integrated within a well-planned land management plan, combining restoration goals for the ecosystem (ecological restoration of peatland) and reclamation (including berry production) depending on site conditions and the socio-economic context of the area.
In addition to the health benefits of berries and their economic value, these plants could be cultivated for their decorative and aesthetic qualities. They could be used as windbreaks or integrated in reclamation projects favouring the return of faunistic biodiversity (notably birds).