Carrera-Hernández, J. J., Mendoza, C. A., Devito, K. J., Petrone, R. M. and Smerdon, B. D. 2012. Reclamation for aspen revegetation in the Athabasca oil sands: Understanding soil water dynamics through unsaturated flow modelling. Can. J. Soil Sci. 92: 103-116. Reclamation of mined areas in the Athabasca oil sands region is required by law, with the ultimate goal of revegetating to species characteristic of predisturbance native plant communities. To develop adequate reclamation strategies, an analysis of soil water dynamics is of utmost importance, as is understanding the impact of the thickness of the reclamation cover. In this work, soil water dynamics and fluxes at the water table were simulated for three reclamation scenarios and compared with the fluxes obtained for natural conditions assuming that aspen is the target reclamation species. According to the simulations, a reclamation thickness between 0.5 and 1.0 m can be used to provide water for revegetation. The numerical simulations show that the reclaimed landscapes have fluxes at the water table that exhibit less fluctuation than natural conditions. To limit the interaction between the water table and atmospheric fluxes, and to limit upward flux, the water table should be deeper than 2.0 m on reclaimed landscapes that use aspen for revegetation, particularly when reclamation takes place during a dry climatological cycle.
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