Investigating the potential of thecamoebians (testate amoebae) as bio-indicators of impact of oil sands mining operations on freshwater environments in Northeastern Alberta, Canada
Neville, Lisa Ann
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Thecamoebian (testate amoeba) species diversity and assemblages in reclamation wetlands and lakes in northeastern Alberta respond to chemical and physical parameters associated with oil sands extraction. Ecosystems more impacted by OSPM (oil sands process-affected material) contain sparse, low-diversity populations dominated by centropyxid taxa and Arcella vulgaris. More abundant and diverse thecamoebian populations rich in difflugiid species characterize environments with lower OSPM concentrations. These shelled protists respond quickly to environmental change, allowing year-to-year variations in OSPM impact to be recorded. Their fossil record thus provides corporations with interests in the Athabasca Oil Sands with a potential means of measuring the progression of highlyimpacted aquatic environments to more natural wetlands. Development of this metric required investigation of controls on their fossil assemblage (e.g. seasonal variability, fossilization potential) and their biogeographic distribution, not only in the constructed lakes and wetlands on the oil sands leases, but also in natural environments across Alberta.