Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG)
Université Laval
Bogs restoration techniques and approaches 1992

Since 1992, 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 ecosystem, 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 cm x 25 cm plots!

Now, what we consider "small-scale" experiments in the field are set up in plots of 5 m 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 site (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. Sphagnum mosses and other peatland plants were re-introduced in 1998 and covered with straw mulch (Photo: F. Quinty).

 The Canadian Peatland Restoration Approach: Six Important Steps


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 facilitates 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 (see the publications at the bottom of this page).

And Now...

Restoration of an ecosystem is a long-term process, and peatlands are no exception to this rule. Growth of mosses is generally slow and the evaluation of certain criteria for success, such as the productivity of newly-formed sphagnum mats, requires follow-up over many years. The evaluation of restoration success on wildlife species also requires a long series of measurements due to the dynamic character of animal populations. We have at our disposal a variety of restored or naturally regenerating sites which we have been monitored, in some cases, since 1993 (see a map of our experimental sites). Repeated monitoring of these sites will allow us to evaluate the success of our methods over a longer period of time. Such an evaluation is essential for adapting all new restoration projects to the particular context of each peatland. Furthermore, alternative approaches are considered for sites where current methods have proven to be inappropriate. As a result, our further research will focus on:
  • evolution of plant communities as well as their longevity, productivity, and resistance to invasion;
  • return of the ecosystems function: wildlife habitat, hydrologic regime, C cycle, microbial communities;
  • improvement of restoration methods to counter problems such as frost heaving;
  • adaptation of the Canadian restoration approach for bogs to other types of peatlands, especially when conditions approach those of a fen;
  • development of new approaches for the restoration of fens or other types of wetlands (fresh or salt marsh);
  • extent to which sites undergoing restoration and those regenerating naturally are used by peatland wildlife over a long time period.

The research is widespread on numerous experimental sites, from Northern Ontario to the Atlantic provinces (see a map of our experimental sites).
Project's publication(s) & communication(s)
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