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Monday, Oct 26, 2020

Wetland restoration rejuvenates natural systems in Northern Alberta and reduces climate change impacts

Wetland Restoration

Historically, many wetlands across Alberta were drained for agricultural purposes. The province of Alberta recently established the Wetland Replacement Program to promote municipalities to restore wetlands in priority watersheds using funds collected under the Alberta Wetland Policy

Associated is currently leading wetland restoration and construction projects for several municipalities in Alberta, fully funded through the provincial Wetland Replacement Program. We are also providing leadership through training courses and advisory services to government, private sector, and non-profit organizations.

Wetland Restoration

Normally, wetland restoration is associated with mitigation for wetland impacts under the Alberta Wetland Policy. However, the Fluker Restoration Project was initiated voluntarily as the landowner recognized the importance of wetlands and wished to restore the wetland on their property. The project began as part of a wetland restoration and construction course taught at the University of Alberta by Kristen Andersen, a wetland and restoration ecologist in our Edmonton office. While seeking a site for the course, Kristen connected with Ryley Corcoran, who was finishing his Master’s degree. Ryley recommended the site and eventually joined Associated Environmental as a wetland and restoration ecologist, and worked with Kristen to complete this project in October 2019. 

Wetland Restoration

Construction was completed over two days and included disabling the drainage channel by excavating a core trench and installing a groundwater dam. Ryley tells us, “Additional modifications to the site’s topography included creating a complex shoreline, deep pools, microtopography, and habitat features, which help promote natural diversity and ecosystem resilience.” 

The benefits of wetlands include flood abatement, shore stabilization, and carbon sequestration

The team restored approximately three hectares of wetlands. Ryley and Kristen oversaw construction, which included planting native seed and willow cuttings collected from the area. This spring, locals saw evidence of the project’s success, in the form of an abundance of wildlife and native vegetation, instead of weedy plants, in the restored wetland.

Wetland Restoration

As an added benefit, wetlands help to mitigate the impacts of climate change, such as extreme precipitation and drought. Kristen explains, “With climate change, we expect more rain. Wetlands provide flood flow attenuation during heavy precipitation and snow melt by storing water for slow release, reducing peak flows downstream. In addition, wetlands protect the environment from the impacts of drought by recharging aquifers, which helps to replenish groundwater supplies. Wetlands can also serve as a source of hay during periods of drought, protect shorelines from erosion, and provide carbon sequestration. They can also improve water quality through filtration of nutrients, sediment, and contaminants.” 

In addition to the Fluker project, Kristen is currently designing projects in Grande Prairie, Leduc, Lac La Biche, and the Municipal District of Greenview under the Wetland Replacement Program.