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Oil Sands Vegetation Cooperative

Overview

The COSIA Oil Sands Vegetation Cooperative (OSVC) is a collaborative effort to harvest and bank seeds from a wide variety of species, and to promote knowledge development for improved collection, handling, storage and eventual deployment of that seed into seedling and outplanting on reclaimed land. The OSVC includes all COSIA member companies and three collection initiatives in the Athabasca and Cold Lake oil sands regions of Alberta.

The Technology

Seed banking is an age-old practice to preserve seeds of plants that are considered rare or are commercially valuable, such as trees or agricultural crops. COSIA members work with the Alberta Tree Improvement and Seed Centre (ATISC) in Smoky Lake, Alberta, which provides seed storage in an underground bunker, at a stable -18°C. All seeds are harvested, extracted, registered and banked in a coordinated effort following the Alberta Forest Genetic Resource Management Standard. Along with seed banking, the OSVC is also active in acquiring and managing propagation materials, such as stems and root cuttings, for species where such methods are known to be effective.

Beyond operational collections, the OSVC is active in identifying research gaps in the areas of seed collection, seed storage, and plant production that will improve reclamation outcomes.

Objective

The project aims to harvest and preserve seeds from the many species that make up the boreal forest for future reclamation and research. To do this, the OSVC works together to:

  • Collect and store propagules, such as seed, and provide strategies to initiate seed orchards/stooling beds to address identified needs in revegetation
  • Provide direction on the collection, extraction, testing, registration and storage of propagules
  • Identify challenges to and strategies for meeting future propagule needs for reclamation in the oil sands regions of Alberta
  • Ensure collection levels are sufficient to provide for adequate propagules for the purposes of preserving genetic diversity
  • Identify data gaps regarding plant collection and propagation techniques and provide members direction on suitable research projects or avenues to address the gap
  • Facilitate information exchange with member companies, government agencies, harvesters and commercial nurseries.

Potential/Actual Environmental Benefits

By harvesting and banking seeds indigenous to the boreal forest, the OSVC ensures a large number of locally adapted species is available at reclamation time that retains the genetic diversity and function on the landscape.

Outcomes

Since 2009, seeds from 45 species, representing trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials from various upland, riparian and wetland habitats, have been registered and banked by the OSVC. A knowledge gap analysis initiated in 2015 has identified multiple avenues of potentially fruitful research, and the OSVC is actively developing research projects to address these needs.