Site Accessibility Statement
Wilfrid Laurier University Office of Research Services
November 23, 2014

Canadian Excellence

small

Felix Nwaishi



PhD Candidate

Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

Biogeochemical processes and microbial characteristics of natural and constructed fen ecosystems in the oil sands of northeastern Alberta, Canada.

My research is part of a collaborative study that is evaluating the reclamation on mined landscapes to a functional fen ecosystem in the oil sands developments regions near Fort McMurray Alberta; an area described by as one of the global hot spots of environmental change due to oil sand mining activities. As large tracts of undisturbed peatlands are being removed in the process, energy industries are obliged to implement reclamation plans on post-mined landscapes as part of mine closure procedures.

The major goal of fen reclamation is to recover the carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling potentials of the disturbed landscape while sustaining above and below ground biodiversity. The ability of a peatland to support these ecosystem functions are as a result of the interactions between biotic and abiotic factors that are driven by the activities of soil microbes. Despite the central role of belowground microbes as the biological engines of biogeochemical processes, previous peatland restoration studies only focused on soil processes and controls while ignoring the microbes driving these ecosystem processes. Thus, my research aims to address this research gap by exploring the link between peatland vegetation, microbial characteristics (composition and activity) and biogeochemical processes in natural and constructed fen ecosystems. The data generated from this study will be used to identifying the key microbial groups driving biogeochemical cycles under different fen vegetation communities and prevailing edaphic conditions in the constructed fen. This will be relevant to understanding the trajectory of reclamation. The results will also inform future research about the links between spatial-temporal variability in edaphic factors, belowground microbial processes and aboveground ecosystem functions (e.g. if trace gas production is a direct function of belowground microbial community response to changes in edaphic factors).