Gwendal Breton
Ph.D. student
Department of Phytology
Laval University

Supervised by:

Line Rochefort (Regular member)

Research project description

Developing scientific criteria to assess the effectiveness of peatland restoration measures in Canada

Introduction: What models and criteria for assessing the success of ecological restoration are used around the world and what are their potential for application and adaptation for monitoring peatland restoration in Canada? What is the potential for evaluation and/or calibration of different wetland restoration expertise systems against the ecological criteria used by PERG to consider peatland restoration as a "success"? What are the best sets of scientific and socio-economic criteria to demonstrate the success of functional and ecosystem peatland restoration in Canada? Objectives: The first part of this PhD project will focus on conducting a global literature review of the criteria used to assess the effectiveness of peatland ecosystem restoration measures and how they might be adapted to the Canadian context. The second part will aim to evaluate or calibrate the capacity of the different assessment models used in relation to PERG's own estimate based on data concerning the return of different species functions or compositions and structures within restored peatlands. Finally, the third part will determine the best set of restoration criteria to reflect the functional recovery of peatland ecosystems by adding a socio-economic dimension. Study sites: Since the late 1990s, there has been a large-scale, long-term monitoring program of PERG in restored peatlands that includes annual fall surveys of permanent plots at sites across Canada. Data collected include vegetation cover and plant communities, soil properties, biomass accumulation and water regime indices. The PERG database covers 36 peatland sites. Thus, the study sites will be restored peatlands in several provinces of Canada: 4 peatlands in Alberta, 3 peatlands in Manitoba, 11 in New Brunswick, 16 in Quebec and finally, 2 peatlands in Saskatchewan. Material and methods: The first part of this project will be based on the methodological approach of the literature review similar to the one carried out by Gatica-Saavedra et al. (2017) on the global review of ecological indicators for assessing the ecological success of forest restoration. The second part will use statistical tools frequently used by PERG (Gonzalez et al. 2014) such as clustering analyses, principal component analyses and redundancy analyses. These statistical tests will be used to estimate the similarity (or ecological distance) of a specific restored site with respect to a regional reference ecosystem, and then the different models will be compared on how they classified the site concerned. The third part will use restoration results based on the ecosystem function of the restored site and will be compared to the restoration criteria schemes of Strack, Rochefort and Xu. Expected results: This first attempt to fully evaluate the success of the peatland restoration approach in Canada will greatly benefit from the three long-term experimental research stations carefully managed by PERG (a bog in Alberta since 1994, a bog in Quebec since 1999, and a fen in Quebec since 2008). The many publications associated with each site, from various disciplines of the natural sciences, will be used in this evaluation. Therefore, the expected results should lead to a better assessment of the effectiveness of post-restoration work on peatlands and to promote and better inform on ecological restoration practices in Canada.

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