Reclamation practices in the oil sands region of Alberta involve the reconstruction of soil profiles using a combination of salvaged mineral substrates and organic-matter-rich surface materials, including peat–mineral mix (PM) and forest floor – mineral mix (FFM). The successful re-establishment of vegetation on reclaimed sites is for a large part dependent on the nutrients these materials can provide. Hence, the overall objective of this study was to compare carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) release rates from PM and FFM materials used to cap reconstructed sandy soils. A 325 d laboratory incubation was conducted to measure these rates. The two materials released comparable amounts of N on a per kilogram of soil basis (111–118 mg N kg-1). However, when results were normalized based on each material’s organic C content, N release was six times greater for FFM than for PM, in accordance with results of previous studies. In addition, overall C mineralization and P release rates were over one order of magnitude higher with FFM than with PM. As opposed to N, however, P release seemed to be controlled more by abiotic processes than by organic matter mineralization. While the FFM material overall released more N and P, it also degraded faster; in comparison, PM may provide a smaller but more stable release of N.
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