Bumper Crop Tailored to OSLI’s Needs
There will be no surprises as to the number and type of species planted under OSLI's Faster Forests program this year. For the first time in the program's four-year history, OSLI gathered seeds and grew them in greenhouses to produce most of this year's bumper crop of 600,000 trees and shrubs.
"This year we really took control of the program to ensure we are able to plant the number of species and type of species we need to make our reclamation activities more effective," says Jeremy Reid, environmental specialist with Nexen and member of OSLI's Land Stewardship Working Group.
He explains in previous years seeds and seedlings were obtained from local forestry operators. While the seedlings planted matched the seed zones the trees were removed from, as required by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, there were no guarantees of quantities or varieties.
"We planted as intelligently as possible but we knew if we could control the species and numbers we could do much more."
Seeds from provincially designated seed zones were collected at the end of summer 2011 and planted in greenhouses operated by Alberta Nurseries, west of Bowden. The seedlings — split equally between trees and shrubs — were ready to go when Faster Forests planting began in August.
Reid explains the seedlings are grouped together according to the species that had been grown on the site slated for reclamation. In this way, OSLI works to ensure areas are returned as close to their natural state as possible.
"If pine and blueberry are growing around a site to be reclaimed then that's what we'll plant on that site."
The 2012 planting is the largest conducted in one season under the Faster Forests program, which was launched in 2009. Between 2009 and the end of 2011, OSLI companies collectively planted approximately one million trees and shrubs. With the August planting that number will rise to 1.6 million.
Reid explains shrubs were added to tree planting in 2011 with some 10,000 to 20,000 planted. This year, there is greater focus on shrubs with 300,000 to be planted.
Shrubs allow trees to grow healthier, faster and with less competition from fast-growing grasses for limited nutrients and water. Berry-bearing shrubs such as blueberry and saskatoons are important to Aboriginal communities and also supply food for wildlife.
The Faster Forests program is designed to revegetate exploratory well sites and seismic lines to improve biodiversity and put forests on a healthy track. To manage this immense task and measure progress, OSLI feeds information about plantings into the Landscape Ecological Assessment and Planning (LEAP) tool, which has been used to establish a baseline of land use in the southern Lower Athabasca Region of Alberta.
Reid explains LEAP uses a combination of geospatial data and forest industry modelling techniques to create a multi-layered digital map that can be read in various combinations or altogether, similar to Google Earth. Due to its modelling ability, LEAP allows OSLI to see how reclamation work undertaken today will affect reforestation five, 10, 20 and even 50 years into the future.
"We can look at the effect of our planting on the forest and wildlife habitat and what we still have to plant in order to reach our objectives."
The following native species are being planted in 2012:
- Balsam poplar
- White birch
- White spruce
- Black spruce
- Green alder
- Saskatoon berry
- Red osier dogwood
- Buffalo berry
- Choke cherry
- Pin cherry
- Bog birch
- Wild rose