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Transferring Donor Moss 1. An appropriate donor fen site is selected for harvest. Only the top 5-10cm of moss is collected by scratching the surface with an excavator bucket. 2. No material is ever collected from deeper than 10cm – it damages the donor site’s ability to self-regenerate, and the deeper peat cannot be used for restoration. Only the very upper surface is viable donor material. It contains enough moss fragments, spores, and seeds from vascular species to kickstart the onsite community. 3. Skid steers with snow buckets shake scoops of the donor moss in a thin, patchy layer across the site. 4. Moss and vascular species begin to grow in the first season, but full coverage will take a few more years.
Where is the Peat? This trial is pioneering an alternative strategy to full pad removal in peatland settings. It aims to restore fen vegetation directly on saturated mineral substrates to create a mire (peat-forming vegetation community). Moving down through the soil profile from the surface, the top layer is new mosses, on top of residual pad fill material, then the original buried peat, and finally at the greatest depth, the underlying sandy mineral soil layer.
To Mulch or Not To Mulch Mulch protection and fertilizer are essential components of the traditional moss layer transfer technique developed to restore bog mosses on horticulturally harvested peatlands. Straw mulch (never hay) protects the moss fragments and stabilizes the **peat surface**, while fertilizer promotes nurse moss species growth, which helps the target **bog mosses** to eventually establish. But are these both essential in establishing **fen mosses** on **mineral surfaces?** This trial aims to find out by comparing fertilized/non-fertilized and mulch/no mulch plots across the site.
Water Table Position is Key! To re-establish adequate surface moisture across the site, the upper portion of the pad was removed to lower the surface elevation. The elevation targeted was at the same level as the average depth of the low points (hollows) in the surrounding peatland. Restoring saturated surface conditions, without flooding the site, is key to successfully establishing fen mosses.
Look at That Moss! Donor moss was transferred at ~1:10 ratio of harvested moss to bare surface. In some areas, donor moss wasn’t distributed perfectly evenly during the transfer – that’s ok. Each section (16 total) received an equal amount of donor moss, spread at a roughly uniform density. In time, the fragments will multiply, creating a thick carpet of moss across the site. This area received a concentrated amount of moss, giving us a sneak peak of what the ground layer could look like in future years. It is dominated by *Tomenthypnum nitens* (golden fuzzy fen moss) – a very common rich fen moss that is present in the surrounding fen complex.
Early Summer 2020
Where Did the Removed Fill Go? Site preparation left the lower portion of the pad in place on top of the original buried peat. The removed upper fill material was piled into a small contoured hill on the south side of the site where an existing pine stand is present. It will be revegetated with similar upland species that will not egress into the wetland portion. Species such as balsam poplar and alder, which are tolerant of swamp conditions, will not be utilized as they risk shifting the wetland community towards a swamp rather than a fen. The dense annual leaf litter of these species smothers ground mosses, hampering re-establishment of the moss layer.
Explore the EDF Site! - Centre for Boreal Research, Peatland Restoration This is a fen initiation trial on residual mineral fill from a decommissioned well pad within a rich fen complex near Slave Lake, Alberta. This is the first trial of its kind at the full site scale. The pad was partially removed and revegetated using a modified donor moss layer transfer technique to restore fen ground layer mosses and vascular species. Site preparation and donor moss transfer were completed in February 2020. This photo was taken at the end of the first growing season (September 2020). Discover more about the site by navigating to each '?'.
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