From Wasteland to Waterscape: Riparian Restoration of 40 Mile Landfill in Banff National Park
The restoration of heavily disturbed sites, particularly those which no longer resemble their historical analogues, remains as both a technical challenge and urgent priority for the field of ecology. Within Banff National Park, though widely considered a model of conservation, there are nonetheless many novel systems which require intervention to reach a state of ecological integrity. This paper seeks to address the range of possible restoration scenarios for a degraded riparian site and former landfill along 40 Mile Creek, adjacent to the town of Banff. The site has been subject to a host of anthropogenic and natural disturbance vectors, including upstream structural impoundment, excavation, reoccurring flooding, as well as former restorative efforts. Prior restoration has failed to flourish due to abiotic barriers such as poor overburden soils which favour ruderal species. Data was primarily gathered using techniques from a standardized Riparian Health Assessment, as well as secondarily from historical archives and Parks’ geospatial (ArcGIS) database. The site scored as ‘extremely unhealthy’ with only a few species or processes present which would be expected, reflecting a long history of interruption in normal ecological functioning. The central goal for restoration in the 2019 field season was to reconstitute representative species and ecological processes to riparian and upland ecosites. This was fulfilled through 3 objectives: bioengineering the streambank, initiating seral processes for aspen-grassland in the uplands, and managing invasive species throughout the site. Recommendations for future work includes several strategies borrowed from forest mine reclamation protocol, including creating topographic heterogeneity, promoting soil development and ecotype diversity, using optimal planting technique, natural regeneration, native materials, and adaptive management. In line with this final recommendation, future restoration efforts must take into consideration the presence of novel and interwoven systems in the Park, responding with cooperative management and experimental technique.