My research focuses on the interplay of hydrology and ecology of shallow, ephemeral wetlands in the Boreal Plain (Alberta, Canada). In particular, I am delineating processes that allow surplus water generation in a sub-humid environment, linking plant community dynamics and vegetation structure with water movement at multiple scales (i.e. leaf to catchment). With this research I hope to inform the reclamation of mine closure sites in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region, where the reconstruction of ecosystems often requires estimating delicate water balances to meet future, often conflicting goals (e.g. preventing mass movement/slope failures vs. generating surface runoff vs. groundwater recharge).
This research is part of a highly collaborative and inter-disciplinary project led by multiple universities based in the UK (University of Birmingham) and Canada (Universities of Alberta, McMaster and Waterloo), as well as multiple partners from industry and NGOs.
Identify water redistributing mechanisms (e.g. via runoff, hydraulic redistribution, flow reversals) by establishing water balance for an exemplary, ephemeral wetland; given the sub-humid climate and low runoff ratios, atmospheric fluxes and changes in storage in relation to seasonal dynamics are the main focus.
Assess impact of water redistribution on productivity of downstream and adjacent ecosystems; this is mainly achieved through proxies of plant water use (e.g. sap flow) and tree productivity and their variable expression throughout climate cycles.
Develop concept of shallow (ephemeral) wetlands and highlight main processes that can be applied for land reclamation operations in the Athabasca Oil Sands to meet water balance demands across scales (i.e. for maintaining individual landscape units or generating runoff at larger scales for endpit lakes).