Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Influence of Nitrogen Deposition on Community Composition in Pinus banksiana Forests Across Northwestern Canada
Anthropogenic atmospheric emissions and subsequent deposition of nitrogen (N) can affect N-sensitive habitats and lead to shifts in plant species community composition. This study assessed the effects of N deposition on plant community composition for Jack pine forests across northwestern Canada and across a smaller subset of sites surrounding the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) using ‘gradient forest’ analysis. Predictor influence on community composition varied depending on the scale of the study and relatively distinct thresholds were identified for different plant groups. In the larger scale study, a total deposited nitrogen (TDN) threshold of 1.5 – 3 kg N ha-1yr-1 was well suited to protect predominantly lichen species, consistent with lichen-based critical loads from other studies. Across the smaller scale study, a TDN threshold of 5.6 kg N ha-1yr-1 was primarily associated with vascular species changepoints but did include some important N-indicator lichen and bryophyte species. Author Keywords: critical loads, gradientForest, Jack pine, Nitrogen deposition, species composition
Temporal variation of dissolved organic matter and diffusive gradient in thin films-labile mercury in the Quesnel river, BC, and the Goose Creek tributary of Churchill river, MB
This study examined dissolved organic matter (DOM) and labile Mercury (from diffusive gradient in thin films (DGT)) in the Quesnel river, British and the Goose creek tributary of the Churchill river, Manitoba. DOM properties were measured with optical measurements of absorption coefficient (a254), spectral slopes (S275-295, SR) and fluorescence indices (HIX, BIX, FI). The DOC proxy measurements (a254) were almost 10 times higher at the Churchill site (Mean a254 116.77 cm-1) compared with the Quesnel river site (Mean a254 12.06 cm-1) during the study periods. While DGT labile Hg concentrations at the Quesnel site (2.17 to 98.97ppt) were almost 10 times more than the levels reported at the Churchill site (0.03 to 9.06 ppt). Fluorescence indices and the rise of labile Hg concentrations in spring indicated mostly terrestrial sources of DOM at both the sites. Spectral slopes and fluorescence indices substantiated that Churchill site had high molecular weight, complex and more humic DOM compared with Quesnel. DOM at both the sites was prone to temporal variation and affected by environmental conditions. Correlation between DGT labile-Hg and DOM parameters suggested that DGT collected Hg-organic complexes along with inorganic labile-Hg complexes. Author Keywords: Churchill, Diffusive gradient in thin films, Dissolved organic matter, Labile Hg, Mercury, Quesnel
Observation-based assessment of atmospheric sulphur surrounding a major aluminum smelter in British Columbia, Canada
Recent developments at an aluminum (Al) smelter in Kitimat, BC resulted in a permitted increase of 27 to 42 tonnes of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions per day. Gaseous SO2 is a pollutant known to contribute to acidic deposition through processes of wet and dry deposition and can additionally react in-atmosphere to form particulate sulphate (pSO42-). Between June 2017 to October 2018, an extensive network consisting of ion exchange resin (IER) column, passive-diffusive, and active filter-pack samplers was established to provide an estimate of total annual S deposition and pSO42- variation throughout the Kitimat Valley. Filter-pack sampling determined the relative concentration of pSO42- increased downwind of the smelter. Comparison of observation-based and modelled total annual deposition suggested CALPUFF was accurate in representing the spatial viability of S deposition (R2 = > 0.85). However, the model appeared to overpredict near-field deposition suggesting the potential of underestimation further downwind of the smelter. Author Keywords: aluminum smelter, atmospheric deposition, filter-pack sampler, ion-exchange column sampler, pSO42-, SO2
Fish and invertebrate use of invasive Phragmites in a Great Lakes freshwater delta
Invasive Phragmites australis ssp. australis (herein “Phragmites”) has established and rapidly spread throughout many coastal areas of the Great Lakes. Known to displace native vegetation communities as it forms large, monotypic stands, Phragmites has a bad reputation when it comes to losses of biodiversity and habitat provision for wildlife. However, the extent to which Phragmites provides habitat for fish and invertebrates in coastal freshwater wetlands remains relatively unquantified. Thus, this study assessed whether fish assemblages and invertebrate communities in stands of Phragmites differ from those in stands of two native emergent vegetation communities, Typha spp. and Schoenoplectus spp. The findings showed significant differences in habitat variables among the vegetation communities in terms of water depth, macrophyte species richness, stem density and water quality. While abundance of the functional feeding group filterer-collectors was found to be significantly less in stands of Phragmites when compared to Schoenoplectus, no difference was observed in invertebrate taxa richness among vegetation communities. Lastly, no difference in fish assemblage or invertebrate community was detected when using multivariate analyses, implying that invasive Phragmites provides habitat that appears to be as valuable for fish and invertebrates as other emergent vegetation types in the St. Clair River Delta. The findings of this study will ultimately benefit the literature on invasive Phragmites and its role as fish habitat in freshwater wetlands, and aid management agencies in decisions regarding control of the invasive species. Author Keywords: aquatic invasive species, aquatic macroinvertebrates, freshwater fish, freshwater wetlands, nMDS, Phragmites
Near-road assessment of traffic related air pollutants along a major highway in Southern Ontario
The spatial and temporal variation in atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ammonia (NH3), and 17 elements (V, Cr, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Cd, Pb, Mg, Al, Ca, Co, Se, Sb, Mn, and Na) were measured at 40 road side locations along a ~250 km traffic density gradient of 40,000–400,000 vehicles on the King’s Highway 401, in Ontario, Canada. Elemental concentrations were measured over a year, using moss bags as passive samplers, for four quarterly three-month exposure periods (October 2015 – October 2016). Gaseous NO2 and NH3 concentrations were measured using Willem’s badge passive diffusive samplers for twelve one-week exposure periods (one per month: October 2015–October 2016). Dry deposition of nitrogen was estimated using the inferential method. There were significant linear relationships between NO2 and NH3 and average annual daily traffic (AADT) volumes across the study area; higher concentrations corresponded to higher volume traffic sites. Average NO2 concentrations at sites ranged from 23.5 to 73 μg/m3, with an annual average of 43.7 μg/m3. Ammonia ranged from 2.56 to 13.55 μg/m3, with an annual average of 6.44 μg/m3. There were significant quarterly variations in NO2, with concentrations peaking during the winter months. In contrast, NH3 showed no significant quarterly variation, but a slight peak occurred during the summer. Gaseous NO2 and NH3 were highly positively correlated (r = 0.63), suggesting a common emission source from traffic. Concentrations in exposed moss were determined by subtracting the total concentration of each metal in the exposed sample from the background concentration present in the moss. Relative accumulation factors (RAF) and contamination factors were also calculated to determine the anthropogenic influence on tissue concentrations in exposed moss. All metals showed elevated levels versus background concentrations, with all metals except Ni and Co showing considerable enrichment. The highest levels of contamination were from V, Cr, Fe, Zn, Cd, Sb, Pb and Na. Principal component analysis indicated 5 clear clusters of related elements, with PC1 accounting for 36.2% and PC2 accounting for 25.6% of the variance. Average annual daily traffic was significantly related to Cr, Fe, Cu, Sb, Mn, Al, and Na. Road side monitoring shows consistently higher concentrations than active monitoring sites located further from the edge of the road, indicating a need for increased road side monitoring in Ontario, Canada. Author Keywords:
Distribution of Cluster Fly Species (Pollenia, spp. Diptera
This thesis looks at the genus Pollenia: historically where they were first introduced into Canada and spatially, where they are found now. This project involved me identifying 2211 files, sorted from the 3 years of field specimens obtained in 2011, 2012, 2013. P. pediculata was the most abundant and widespread, yielding 1272 specimens out of 2211, and it was found in all provinces sampled. The previous understanding of all Pollenia specimens as being P. rudis appears to be incorrect both in terms of actual number of species – which is known – and how prevalent it is. P. rudis comprised only 20% of the entire collection. The least common was P. griseotomentosa, occurring as 45 of 2211, or 2%. I found new eight first provincial records: four species in Alberta (P. angustigena, P. labialis, P. rudis, P. vagabunda) , one species for Saskatchewan (P. pediculata), two for New Brunswick (P. griseotomentosa, P. labialis), and one for Nova Scotia (P. labialis). P. labialis was new to three provinces, the other species to one province each. Author Keywords: Calliphoridae, Canada, Cluster Fly, Distribution, Pollenia, Provincial Records
Moss Biomonitoring of Trace Element Deposition in Northwestern British Columbia, Canada
Atmospheric pollutant deposition poses a risk to ecosystem health; therefore, monitoring the spatial and temporal trends of deposition is integral to environmental sustainability. Although moss biomonitoring is a common method to monitor various pollutants in Europe, offering a cost-effective approach compared to traditional methods of monitoring, it is rarely used in Canada. The focus of this study was a spatial assessment of trace element deposition across a region with a known large-point source of emissions using the moss biomonitoring method. Moss tissues presented strong correlations with modelled deposition in the region, suggesting mosses are a valuable biomonitoring tool of trace element deposition, especially in regions dominated by large-point emission sources. Additionally, a moss species endemic to Canada was compared to commonly used moss species with results indicating this species (Isothecium stoloniferum) can be used reliably as a biomonitor. Moss biomonitoring is recommended as a compliment to fill in spatial gaps in current monitoring networks across the country. Author Keywords: biomonitoring, bryophytes, Hylocomium splendens, moss, Pleurozium schreberi, trace elements
Nitrogen Retention of Terricolous Lichens in a Jack Pine Forest in Northern Alberta
The Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada is one of the largest point sources emitters of NOx in Canada and there are concerns that elevated nitrogen (N) deposition will lead to widespread eutrophication impacts, including altered species composition, similar to what has occurred in several parts of Europe. Atmospheric deposition rates as high as 25 kg N ha-1 yr-1 have been measured close to the industrial center. The role of the forest floor in regulating these potential eutrophication effects was investigated following a 5-year enrichment study in which N was applied as NH4NO3 above the canopy of a jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb) stand in northern Alberta close to Fort McMurray at dosages ranging from 5 – 25 kg N ha-1 yr-1 in addition to background deposition of 2 kg N ha-1 yr-1. Chemical analysis of lichen mats revealed that apical (upper) lichen tissue N concentration increased with treatment, as did the necrotic tissue. When expressed as a pool, the fibric-humic (FH) material held the largest quantity of N across all treatments due to its relatively large mass. Soil net N mineralization and net nitrification rates did not differ among N inputs after five years of application. A 15N tracer applied to the forest floor showed that N is initially absorbed by the apical lichen, FH material, and the foliage of the vascular plant Vaccinium myrtilloides in particular. After 2 years, the FH 15N pool size was elevated and all other measured pools were depleted, indicating a slow transfer of N to the FH material. Applied 15N was not detectable in mineral soil. The microbial functional gene ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) was undetectable using PCR screening of mineral soil microbial communities in all treatments, and broad fungal/bacterial qPCR assays revealed a weak treatment effect on fungal/bacterial ratios in mineral soil. This work suggests that terricolous lichen mats, which form the majority of ground cover in upland jack pine systems, have a large capacity to effectively retain elevated N deposition via the formation of stable humus. Author Keywords: Biogeochemistry, Boreal Ecology, Lichen, Nitrogen Enrichment, Oil Sands
Exploring reproduction in wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) in comparison to L. polyphyllus and L. albus
Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) restoration efforts seek to increase and connect populations, using seeds, to facilitate the recovery of endangered butterflys in Ontario. This study observed plant growth and phytohormone levels of L. albus, L. polyphyllus, and L. perennis through stages of seed development, each with varying strategies in growth and reproductive investment. L. polyphyllus is similar to L. perennis in morphology, acting as similar comparable with L. albus, a well-studied annual, as an outgroup comparator. Wild lupines showed a lack of sexual reproductive effort as they did not put as much effort into above ground growth, and few in the population reproduces. They also showed cis-zeatin, a weaker cytokinin, throughout development and had higher amounts of abscisic acid at the end of seed maturity, impacting their ability to develop and germinate. These factors contribute to why wild lupines are difficult to restore using seeds, limiting expansion and challenging restoration. Author Keywords: L. albus, L. perennis, L. polyphyllus, plant physiology, seed development, Wild blue lupine
Biology and Management of Stratiotes Aloides in the Trent River, Ontario
Invasive aquatic plants can create negative ecological, economic and social impacts when they displace local vegetation, interfere with shipping and navigation and inhibit water-based recreational activities. In 2008, the first North American occurrence of the invasive plant Stratiotes aloides (Water soldier) was identified in the Trent River, Ontario. This research measured offset photosynthesis and turion germination to determine the light compensation point (5.2-5.4m) and maximum depth of colonization (4-6m) for S. aloides propagules using in situ incubations and controlled growth experiments. The effects of spring and fall chemical (Diquat) and physical (hand raking) treatments on S. aloides biomass, local macrophyte recovery and community dynamics in the Trent River were also measured. The target of a 75% minimum reduction in S. aloides biomass was not attained using any of the treatment methods and no perceivable recovery of the local plant community was observed. Significant S. aloides regrowth was recorded for both treatment methods regardless of application timing. Author Keywords: herbicide, invasive species, macrophyte, photosynthesis, propagule
impact of selection harvesting on soil properties and understory vegetation in canopy gaps and skid roads in central Ontario
Tree harvesting alters nutrient cycling and removes nutrients held in biomass, and as a result nutrient availability may be reduced, particularly in naturally oligotrophic ecosystems. Selection harvesting is a silvicultural technique limited to tolerant hardwood forests where individual or small groups of trees are removed creating a “gap” in the forest canopy. In order for harvesting machinery to gain access to these individual trees, trees are felled to create pathways, known as skid roads. The objective of this study was to characterize differences in soil chemical and physical properties in gaps, skid roads and uncut areas following selection harvesting in central Ontario as well as documenting differences in the understory vegetation community and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) seedlings chemical composition post harvest. First year seedlings were collected for elemental analysis from unharvested areas, canopy gaps, and skid roads in 2014, eight months after harvesting. In 2015, first and second year sugar maple seedlings were collected. Soil bulk density and water infiltration were measured in the three areas of the catchment as well as soil moisture, organic matter content, exchangeable base cations, and net nitrification. Seedlings in the disturbed sites had lower concentrations of Mg, K, P, and N compared with unharvested sites and soil nitrification was significantly lower in the skid roads. Water infiltration rates in the gap and skid roads were slower than the control and concentrations of metals (e.g. Fe, Al, Ca) and litter mass increased in litter bags deployed over 335 days, likely reflecting an increase in soil erosion in the skid roads. Understory vegetation was markedly different amongst sites, particularly the dominance of Carex spp. in the skid roads. The sustainability of industrial logging is dependent on successful tree regeneration, however, increased soil compaction, establishment and growth of grasses and shrubs, as well as low nutrient concentrations in seedlings may ultimately restrict forest succession. Author Keywords: Canadian Shield, nitrification, selection harvesting, soil compaction, sugar maple seedling, understory vegetation
effects of in-stream woody debris from selective timber harvest on nutrient pools and dynamics within Precambrian Shield streams
Timber harvest can influence the rate of transfer of organic matter from the terrestrial catchment to streams, which may have both direct and indirect effects on in-stream nutrient pools and dynamics. In the interest of developing sustainable forestry practices, the continued study of the effects of forestry on nutrient dynamics in aquatic systems is paramount, particularly in sensitive nutrient-poor oligotrophic systems. The goal of this study was to investigate the impacts of harvest-related woody debris on stream nutrient status in streams located in the Canadian Shield region of south-central Ontario. Surveys showed greater large (> 10 cm) and small (< 10 cm) woody debris dry masses and associated nutrient pools in streams located in recently (2013) selectively harvested catchments, when compared with catchments not harvested for at least 20 years. Experimental releases of flagging tape underlined the importance of woody debris as a mechanism of coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) retention. Sediment surveys showed a significant exponential decline in both OM content and nutrients associated with coarse sediment with distance upstream from debris dams. Laboratory leaching experiments suggest that fresh woody debris may be an important short-term source of water-soluble nutrients, particularly phosphorus and potassium. This study suggests that woody debris from timber harvest is both a direct and indirect source of nutrients, as trapped wood and leaves that accumulate behind debris dams can augment stream nutrient export over long time periods. Author Keywords: nutrient leaching, nutrient pools, organic matter retention, selection harvest, southern Ontario, woody debris


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