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The impact of birch seedlings on evapotranspiration from a mined peatland: an experimental study in southern Quebec, Canada

Author(s): E. Fay | C. Lavoie

Journal: Mires and Peat
ISSN 1819-754X

Volume: 5;
Issue: 03;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2009;
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Keywords: Betula papyrifera | hydrology | mire | restoration

Dense stands of birch (Betula spp.) on abandoned peat workings have often been identified as potential barriers to site restoration, but little research has been conducted to evaluate their impact on water resources. The objective of this experimental study was to determine whether birch seedlings established on an abandoned mined peatland in eastern Canada had a significant impact on evapotranspiration. Transpiration rates from birch seedlings planted in containers filled with Sphagnum compost were measured gravimetrically. Unplanted containers were used to similarly measure evaporation rates from bare peat. On average, the measured rates of evaporation (per unit area) from peat were 2.5 times the rates of transpiration from birch leaves. However, if the total leaf area of a dense birch population established on an abandoned mined peatland is considered, the total amount of water lost through birch transpiration could be higher than that lost by evaporation from the peat surface. This study provides a rough estimate of potential water losses due to birch seedling transpiration, and indicates that a dense population of birch on a mined peatland may influence site hydrology even at the early establishment phase (seedlings). Consequently, recently abandoned mined peatlands should be restored rapidly to prevent the establishment of birch trees.
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