Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG)
Université Laval
Restoration of Bic-Saint-Fabien peatland 2008

Ecological restoration of a minerotrophic peatland

To get some answers about the suitable techniques to re-establish natural fen conditions at the ecosystem level, a multidisciplinary team of researchers will study the ecology of target plant assemblages to be reintroduced, the hydrology of the mined peatland and diverse techniques for successful establishment of key peat accumulating species.  

The project will follow a framework for restoration projects inspired by assembly rule approach, which is a helpful tool in restoration ecology. Indeed, if the constraints of a system are defined, restoration efforts can focus on manipulating these constraints to steer succession towards the desired community.


Figure 1. Framework of the research program to gain knowledge on the restoration of fens and wet meadows. The rectangles represent ?species pools? which are pertinent for restoration. Open arrows represent active measures which should be explored to develop strategies for restoring a degraded system. Solid arrows represent the direction of the ?species pool? development during restoration and the dashed arrow represents similarity between ?species pools? (from Graf, 2007).

General goal

To restore the primary carbon accumulating function of a minerotrophic peatland after peat mining.

Study site

The Bic?Saint-Fabien peatland is located in Eastern Québec. This site has been mined for horticultural peat since 1946, but most of it has been abandoned during the last decades.

Main steps of the project

In 2008:

1) Determining the reference ecosystem

Objectives: To define the reference ecosystem and to identify the plant assemblages that should be reintroduced to form the new pool community (Figure 1c). To describe the model to follow during planning, restoration process and evaluation of the success.

? Paleoecological study to understand the dynamic of the system through time.

? Historical documents will add to the reference system.

? Vegetation surveys of surrounding regional fens (Figure 1b) to estimate the range of variation in plant communities.

Photographs of the abandonned area. (a) The west side is wetter and well-revegetated while (b) the east side is drier and still show bare peat. Peat depth varies between 1.6 to 3.5 m (Photos: V. Bérubé).

2) Vegetation surveys in the abandoned peatland

Objectives: To define the spontaneous species pools (Figure 1a). To test the relationships between various community structures and the prevailing abiotic conditions.

? Vegetation relevés within a systematic sampling design.

? Systematic sampling of peat and water physicochemistry.

(a) Open moderately-rich fen that has never been exploited but is still under the influence of the former drainage system. It may be used as a reference system. Peat depth averages 5 m. It is the habitat of several rare plants like (b) Amerorchis rotundifolia, (c) Arethusa bulbosa, (d) Cypripedium reginae and (e) Valeriana uliginosa (Photos: V. Bérubé).

3) Carbon cycling of abandoned peatland ecosystem

Objectives: To establish the net carbon fluxes (CO2 and CH4) of different plant communities growing in the abandoned area in comparison to the natural area. To determine the potential for peat accumulation of several spontaneously recolonized plant communities.

? Closed chamber methods.

4) Hydrological assessment of post-harvested minerotrophic peatland

Objectives: To characterize water inflows and outflows of the disturbed peatland. To improve the hydrological major constraint (Figure 1C), an ecosystemic approach for rewetting will be designed. 

?Meteorological station, piezometer nests, water  wells, lysimeters, tensiometer, potentiometer.

In 2009:
5) Trials of restoration techniques

Objectives: To successfully reintroduce target species pool (Figure 1c) according to hydrological and physico-chemical conditions of the peat. To restore adequate fen hydrological conditions to sustain the water balance and appropriate geochemistry that are appropriate for fen vegetation.

? Hay transfer technique.

? Moss layer transfer technique.

? Management of well-established vegetation towards peat accumulating communities.

? Pool creation.

? Rewetting.

Some methods used in 2008. (a) Meteorological station and hydrological instumentation, (b) closed chambers for CO2 measurements and (c) trials of moss carpet transfert with brown mosses (Photos: V. Bérubé).

In 2010-2011:
6) Success monitoring

Objectives: To monitor the internal dynamics between reintroduced species (Figure 1e) to ensure that the target species can persist on the restoration site. To check if the ecosystem functions tend towards the reference ecosystem.

? Vegetation and macrofauna surveys and microbiological assays.

? Productivity assessment.

? Water balance.

? Carbon cycle.

This is a first attempt of fen restoration at the whole-ecosystem level in eastern Canada. We hope to develop suitable techniques to re-established natural conditions of a carbon accumulating fen.

Project's publication(s) & communication(s)


© 2009 PERG. | All rights reserved. | C2000