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TitleReactivating sand dunes and restoring aeolian processes for endangered species in the Middle Sand Hills, southeastern Alberta
AuthorHugenholtz, C H; Wolfe, S A; Bender, D; Gummer, D; Gillis, A
Source34th annual meeting of the Canadian Geophysical Union, held jointly with the 2008 annal meeting of the Canadian Geomorphology Research Group, program and abstracts; 2008 p. 90
Year2008
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20070571
MeetingCanadian Geophysical Union - Canadian Geomorphology Research Group Annual Meeting; Banff, AB; CA; May 11-14, 2008
Documentbook
Lang.English
Mediapaper
ProvinceAlberta
AreaMiddle Sand Hills
Subjectssurficial geology/geomorphology; environmental geology; environmental studies; landforms; dunes; sands; eolian deposits; environmental impacts; climate; land use; erosion; erosion rates; sediment transport; Northern Great Plains; environmental management; Phanerozoic; Cenozoic; Quaternary
ProgramEnhancing resilience in a changing climate
AbstractSand dunes cover more than 40,000 km2 of the northern Great Plains (NGP), encompassing more than 120 major areas. Most dunes are stabilized by vegetation cover but a small number are active under current climate conditions. Active dunes are essential for maintaining biodiversity and serve as critical habitat for endangered species requiring bare sand and a certain level of wind erosion. Active dunes also present a unique landscape component with natural and cultural-historic significance.
Previous research has demonstrated that the number of active dunes has decreased across the NGP in the last 75 years. In the Middle Sand Hills of Alberta, as much as 90% of active dunes have vegetated since the 1930s and complete stabilization of all dunes is predicted to occur in the next decade. This sharp reduction of active dunes automatically implies the loss of habitat for dune-dependent species. Factors contributing to this rapid stabilization include variations in climate, the loss of large grazers, and land use practices that minimize disturbance and wind erosion.
In 2007 a three-year collaborative research project between biologists and geomorphologists was initiated to investigate mechanisms for reactivating dunes and restoring habitat for endangered species in the Middle Sand Hills. The goal is to evaluate forms of disturbance (e.g., fire, grazing, and artificial wind erosion hollows) that stimulate aeolian sediment transport and thereby restore habitat for dune-dependent species (e.g., Ord's kangaroo rat, western spiderwort, sand verbena, Big sand tiger beetle). Repeat topographic surveys and wind erosion traps deployed at 11 sites are used to quantify the effectiveness of disturbance techniques on aeolian sediment transport.
Initial results indicate that fire and artificial wind erosion hollows are effective techniques for reactivating dunes and restoring habitat. Dunes burned in October 2007 were already showing signs of widespread aeolian sediment transport one month later. Furthermore, observations of Ord's kangaroo rat burrows and a variety of tiger beetles species at the artificial wind erosion hollows indicate that dune-dependent species are attracted to the disturbed sites. Although still in the early stages, this research clearly demonstrates how biology and geomorphology can be integrated to develop innovative land use management strategies for restoring dune habitat.
Initial results indicate that fire and artificial wind erosion hollows are effective techniques for reactivating dunes and restoring habitat. Dunes burned in October 2007 were already showing signs of widespread aeolian sediment transport one month later. Furthermore, observations of Ord's kangaroo rat burrows and a variety of tiger beetles species at the artificial wind erosion hollows indicate that dune-dependent species are attracted to the disturbed sites. Although still in the early stages, this research clearly demonstrates how biology and geomorphology can be integrated to develop innovative land use management strategies for restoring habitat.
GEOSCAN ID224848