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Laboratory-based nitrogen mineralization and biogeochemistry of two soils used in oil sands reclamation

MacKenzie, M. D. and S. Quideau. 2012. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 92:131-142


In the Athabasca oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, peat mineral and upland forest floor mineral soils are salvaged and stockpiled for reclamation. Previous work showed that sites reclaimed with forest floor mineral soil had better understory regeneration and nitrogen dynamics more similar to naturally disturbed ecosystems. Both soils and a mixture of the two were compared in laboratory incubations by examining nitrogen mineralization (over 45 wk) and factorial fertility additions (4 wk trial with NPK) on microbial community structure and nutrient availability. Nitrogen mineralization indicated forest floor mineral soil had lower release rates and a higher estimated labile nitrogen pool than peat mineral soil. Nitrogen mineralization in mixed soil started like peat mineral soil and finished like forest floor mineral soil. Fertility additions influenced microbial community structure less than soil type. Multi-response permutation procedure indicated the forest floor mineral soil microbial community was significantly different from peat mineral and mixed soil communities. Control nutrient profiles differed from those with added NPK. Forest floor mineral soil retained nitrogen as ammonium, while peat mineral and mixed soils were nitrate dominated. Reclamation will require all soil types to be used and these data will help determine soil placement prescriptions.

Key Words

Rate constant (k), first order equation, ionic resin analysis, phospholipid fatty acid, microlysimeter, metabolic quotient