While the word 'fen' isn’t particularly well-known, it has special meaning for our reclamation team. A fen is a specific type of wetland – one in which decaying vegetation accumulates as ‘peat.’ Many people know fens more familiarly as ‘muskeg’ or ‘peatland.’
Nikanotee is Suncor’s pilot fen research area. It is one of the first fen watersheds to be constructed in the world. Many fen or bog peatlands have been restored by fixing water flows disturbed by ditching or roads, but Suncor is one of the only organizations in the world to attempt reconstruction of such a sophisticated ecosystem from the ground up.
Before oil sands mining began in Wood Buffalo, fens covered about half the region. And thanks to this team’s efforts, they continue to maintain a strong foothold in the region.
“Continual improvement in oil sands reclamation practices is one part of our overall vision of responsible development that ensures a healthy environment for today and tomorrow,” says Christine Daly, senior sustainability advisor, land & reclamation. “After almost a decade of university-led research and design, Suncor has recently established the conditions for the most common wetland in our region – the fen. Fens play an important role in our region by sequestering greenhouse gases in their peat reservoirs, reducing the risk of floods, improving water quality and providing habitat for unique plants and animals.”
Monitoring indicates that so far, the fen is performing as designed. Many fen plants such as moss, cranberry, sedges and birch were successfully established in 2013.
Nikanotee Fen Pilot Project, August 2014