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Volume 12 (2013) Article 4
The hydrological and geochemical isolation of a freshwater bog within a saline fen in north-eastern Alberta
by S.J. Scarlett and J.S. Price
Published online: 03.10.2013
In the oil sands development region near Fort McMurray, Alberta, wetlands cover ~62 % of the landscape, and ~95 % of these wetlands are peatlands. A saline fen was studied as a reference site for peatland reclamation. Despite highly saline conditions, a freshwater bog was observed in the path of local saline groundwater flow. The purpose of this study was to identify the hydrological controls that have allowed the development and persistence of a bog in this setting. The presence of bog vegetation and its dilute water chemistry suggest that saline groundwater from the fen rarely enters the bog, which functions predominantly as a groundwater recharge system. Chloride (Cl–) and sodium (Na+) were the dominant ions in fen water, with concentrations averaging 5394 and 2307 mg L-1, respectively, while the concentrations in bog water were 5 and 4 mg L-1, respectively. These concentrations were reflected by salinity and electrical conductivity measurements, which in the fen averaged 9.3 ppt, and 15.8 mS cm-1, respectively, and in the bog averaged 0.1 ppt and 0.3 mS cm-1, respectively. A small ridge in the mineral substratum was found at the fen–bog margin, which created a persistent groundwater mound. Under the dry conditions experienced in early summer, groundwater flow was directed away from the bog at a rate of 14.6 mm day-1. The convex water table at the fen-bog margin impeded flow of saline water into the bog and instead directed it around the bog margin. However, the groundwater mound was eliminated during flooding in autumn, when the horizontal hydraulic gradient across the margin became negligible, suggesting the possibility of saline water ingress into the bog under these conditions.
Scarlett, S.J. & Price, J.S. (2013): The hydrological and geochemical isolation of a freshwater bog within a saline fen in north-eastern Alberta. Mires and Peat 12: Art. 4. (Online: http://www.mires-and-peat.net/pages/volumes/map12/map1204.php)
IMCG and IPS acknowledge the work of the reviewers.