Innovative land reclamation approaches following oil sands mining: a phytoremediation approach based on tree-soil microbiome interactions

1 Frank Stefani, Natural Resources Canada

2 Brad Pinno, Natural Resources Canada

3 Nathalie Isabel, Natural Resources Canada

4 Armand Séguin, Natural Resources Canada


Oil sands companies are committed to accelerating the rate of remediation and reclamation and must improve their environmental performance to minimize their footprint. The development of successful land reclamation processes following surface mining for bitumen extraction should use an integrated approach that pays close attention to tree-soil microbiome interactions. Over the last year, we have started to investigate how different land reclamation treatments impact the bacterial and fungal diversities recovered in soil and root samples from aspens (P. tremuloides) spontaneously growing in reclaimed sites. Results were compared with the microbial community structure observed in soil and aspen root samples from a burned and mature aspen stands. Preliminary analyses show that the OTUs richness of bacteria and fungi recovered from root and aspen soil samples was the lowest when peat-mineral mix is used for reclaiming mining sites. At the opposite, the microbial community diversity and structure recovered in former mining sites reclaimed with mixing forest floor with tailings were similar to that observed in natural and burned aspen stands. Within the next 5 years, our project should contribute to a better understanding of the phytoremediation process itself that leads to the selection of best fits (tree species-cohort of microbes) for Alberta's context to return to a functioning ecosystem similar to natural forests.