QUEBEC, DECEMBER 2009 -- Companies and communities trying to restore vegetation on damaged northern landscapes should think twice about using fertilizer to stimulate growth according to new research published in the November issue of Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research.
Not all plants benefit from the use of fertilizers. In fact, some do worse.
Stphane Boudreau, a Professor of Ecology at Universit Laval, and two colleagues spent a summer growing three types of native plants in the northern village of Whapmagoostui in subarctic Quebec. They found that a top dressing of organic fertilizer had virtually no impact on the plants while mineral fertilizer, the kind sold by gardening stores, showed mixed results.
Over the last 60 years Whapmagoostui, a village of 750 mostly Cree residents, has witnessed the loss of close to 50% of vegetation in the village and surrounding area because of land development and ATV use. The result is a community covered with bare sand but no vegetation.
"The vegetation cover in the village is all degraded. People want to live in a place that's nice," said Boudreau. In addition, the region is subject to strong winds that create sandstorms that cause some respiratory problems for the residents.
The village came to Boudreau and his colleagues for assistance with revegetation plans. Villagers selected three plant species to use in the experiment American dune grass, beach pea and spike trisetum.
The plants were grown outdoors and inside a greenhouse and were fed mineral fertilizer (slow release pellets or water soluble 20-20-20) or top-dressed with organic fertilizer collected from a nearby marsh. Each of the species responded differently to the fertilizers.
The organic material had a neutral or a negative effect. "Some studies show that organic fertilizer can be quite important. It can increase water retention of the soil and increase nutrient levels. But this didn't
|Contact: Prof. Stphane Boudreau|
Arctic Institute of North America