Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): R. Kelman Wieder; Melanie A. Vile; Kimberli D. Scott; Cara M. Albright; Kelly J. McMillen; Dale H. Vitt; Mark E. Fenn
    Date: 2016
    Source: Environmental Science & Technology. 50(23): 12630-12640
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (8.0 MB)


    Oil extraction and development activities in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of northern Alberta, Canada, release NOx, SOx, and NHy to the atmosphere, ultimately resulting in increasing N and S inputs to surrounding ecosystems through atmospheric deposition. Peatlands are a major feature of the northern Alberta landscape, with bogs covering 6-10% of the land area, and fens covering 21-53%. Bulk deposition of NH4+ -N, NO3- -N, dissolved inorganic N (DIN), and SO42- -S, was quantified using ion-exchange resin collectors deployed at 23 locations, over 1-6 years. The results reveal maximum N and S deposition of 9.3 and 12.0 kg ha-1 yr-1, respectively, near the oil sands industrial center (the midpoint between the Syncrude and Suncor upgrader stacks), decreasing with distance to a background deposition of 0.9 and 1.1 kg ha-1 yr-1, respectively. To assess potential influences of high N and S deposition on bogs, we quantified N and S concentrations in tissues of two Sphagnum species, two lichen species, and four vascular plant species, as well as surface porewater concentrations of H+, NH4+ -N, NO3- -N, SO4 2- -S and dissolved organic N in 19 ombrotrophic bogs, distributed across a 3255 km2 sampling area surrounding the oil sands industrial center. The two lichen species (Evernia mesomorpha and Cladonia mitis), two vascular plant species (Rhododendron groenlandicum and Picea mariana), and to a lesser extent one moss (Sphagnum fuscum), showed patterns of tissue N and S concentrations that were (1) highest near the oil sands industrial center and (2) positively correlated with bulk deposition of N or S. Concentrations of porewater H+ and SO4 2--S, but not of NH4+-N, NO3--N, DIN, or dissolved inorganic N, also were higher near the oil sands industrial center than at more distant locations. The oil sands region of northern Alberta is remote, with few roads, posing challenges to the monitoring of oil sands-related N and S deposition. Quantification of N and S concentrations in bog plant/lichen tissues and porewaters may serve as a monitoring tool to assess both the local intensity and the spatial extent of bulk N and S deposition, and as harbingers of potential shifts in ecosystem structure and function.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Wieder, R. Kelman; Vile, Melanie A.; Scott, Kimberli D.; Albright, Cara M.; McMillen, Kelly J.; Vitt, Dale H.; Fenn, Mark E. 2016. Differential effects of high atmospheric N and S deposition on bog plant/lichen tissue and porewater chemistry across the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Environmental Science & Technology. 50(23): 12630-12640.


    Google Scholar


    Peatlands, Atmospheric Deposition, Bogs and Fens, Sphagnum, Lichens

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page