Deltaic Ecosystem Health, Oil Sands Region

Deltaic Wetlands Biomonitoring

Wetland macroinvertebrates, comprising insects, crustaceans, molluscs and worms represent a group of organisms forming a critical food resource for consumer organisms (e.g. fish, birds), that are used widely in environmental monitoring programs to assess both the short-and long-term effects of change associated with water quality or physical habitat conditions on aquatic ecosystem health.

Macroinverebrate samples from the Peace-Athabasca Delta have been collected annually since the initial reconnaissance year (2011). In addition, supporting water chemistry samples were collected at each site on the same date.

The species richness of invertebrates recorded in the Peace-Athabasca Delta sites was reflective of the complex and diverse habitats found in that area, although definitive conclusions regarding natural variations and impacts of development will require several more years of sampling. The integration of the resulting macroinvertebrate data with supporting environmental information is ongoing at this time.

Biomonitoring Water Quality

Verified and validated water quality data from fall of 2011 through to the fall of 2013 collected to support Invertebrate and Ecosystem Health studies. Data was collected at twenty-one sites on the mainstem of the Athabasca River, sixty sites on its major tributaries and twenty-nine sites in the expanded geographic area, including deltaic wetlands and several streams.

The data include measures of nutrients, metals (dissolved and total), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and major ions. Along with other environmental measures, the data are used to determine factors affecting the status and trends in the benthic invertebrate community composition and contribute to assessment of the health of the aquatic ecosystem.


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