Kelly Biagi


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The hydrochemical evolution of a constructed peatland in a post-mining landscape six years after construction
Kelly Biagi, Sean K. Carey
Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, Volume 39

Reclamation of wetlands, including peatlands, is legally required in the Athabasca oil sands region following bitumen extraction via surface mining which leaves large open pits that are backfilled with saline tailings waste. Six years of hydrochemical data (2013 – 2018) from the Sandhill Fen Watershed (SFW), a 52-ha upland-peatland catchment that was built upon highly saline soft tailings, were used to evaluate salinity and ion patterns and provide insight on its trajectory. In general, electrical conductivity (EC) increased throughout SFW from 1) reduced inflow and outflow, 2) changes in water table positions and 3) increased mixing of site-wide waters. Salinity has increased site-wide over time as EC increased by an average of 1585 and 2313 µS/cm in the wetland and margins, respectively from 2013 to 2018. The uplands were the only region where EC declined by 1747 µS/cm over the six years. There is also evidence of mixing with underlying tailings waste (Na-Cl dominant) as the chemical composition of SFW waters shifted from largely Ca-dominant in 2013 (> 90%) to Na-dominant by 2018 (> 70%). Based on its current conditions, SFW cannot support freshwater peat-forming bryophytes and is most chemically similar to naturally occurring saline fens. A shift in design strategies is recommended (replicating saline instead of freshwater peatlands) to increase the success of these systems. Changes in site-wide average annual electrical conductivity (µS/cm) from 2013 to 2018. • Electrical conductivity (EC) and Na+ increased site-wide from 2013 to 2018. • Decreased inflow and outflow increased EC and ion accumulation. • Higher water tables diluted wetland EC and increased margin EC (ion mobilization). • Increased mixing with tailings waste shifted waters from Ca +2 to Na + dominant. • Waters have become similar to brackish marshes and saline fens.


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A new flow for Canadian young hydrologists: Key scientific challenges addressed by research cultural shifts
Caroline Aubry‐Wake, Lauren Somers, Hayley Alcock, A. M. Anderson, Amin Azarkhish, Samuel Bansah, Nicole M. Bell, Kelly Biagi, Mariana Castañeda-González, Olivier Champagne, Anna Chesnokova, Devin Coone, Thierry Gauthier, Uttam Ghimire, Nathan Glas, Dylan M. Hrach, Oi Yin Lai, Pierrick Lamontagne‐Hallé, Nicolas Leroux, Laura Lyon, Sohom Mandal, Bouchra Nasri, Nataša Popović, Tracy Rankin, Kabir Rasouli, Alexis L. Robinson, Palash Sanyal, Nadine J. Shatilla, Brandon Van Huizen, Sophie Wilkinson, Jessica Williamson, Majid Zaremehrjardy
Hydrological Processes, Volume 34, Issue 8

A new flow for Canadian young hydrologists: Key scientific challenges addressed by research cultural shiftsCaroline Aubry-Wake1, Lauren D. Somers2,3, Hayley Alcock4, Aspen M. Anderson5, Amin Azarkhish6, Samuel Bansah7, Nicole M. Bell8, Kelly Biagi9, Mariana Castaneda-Gonzalez10, Olivier Champagne9, Anna Chesnokova10, Devin Coone6, Tasha-Leigh J. Gauthier11, Uttam Ghimire6, Nathan Glas6, Dylan M. Hrach11, Oi Yin Lai14, Pierrick Lamontagne-Halle3, Nicolas R. Leroux1, Laura Lyon3, Sohom Mandal12, Bouchra R. Nasri13, Natasa Popovic11, Tracy. E. Rankin14, Kabir Rasouli15, Alexis Robinson16, Palash Sanyal17, Nadine J. Shatilla9, 18, Brandon Van Huizen11, Sophie Wilkinson9, Jessica Williamson11, Majid Zaremehrjardy191 Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada2 Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA, USA3 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, McGill University, Montreal QC4 Department of Natural Resource Science, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada5 Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada6 School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Ontario, ON, Canada7 Department of Geological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada8 Centre for Water Resources Studies, Department of Civil & Resource Engineering, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada9 School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.10 Department of Construction Engineering, Ecole de technologie superieure, Montreal, QC, Canada11 Department of Geography & Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada12 Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada13 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McGill University, Montreal, Qc, Canada14 Geography Department, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada15 Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Dorval, QC, Canada16 Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON17 Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan.18 Lorax Environmental Services Ltd, Vancouver, BC, Canada.19 Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

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The role of snow processes and hillslopes on runoff generation in present and future climates in a recently constructed watershed in the Athabasca oil sands region
Kelly Biagi, Sean K. Carey
Hydrological Processes, Volume 34, Issue 17

Mine reclamation in the Athabasca oil sands region Canada, is required by law where companies must reconstruct disturbed landscapes into functioning ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and lakes that existed in the Boreal landscape prior to mining. Winter is a major hydrological factor in this region as snow covers the landscape for 5 to 6 months and is ~25% of the annual precipitation, yet few studies have explored the influence of winter processes on the hydrology of constructed watersheds. One year (2017-2018) of intensive snow hydrology measurements are supplemented with six years (2013-2018) of meteorological measurements from the constructed Sandhill Fen Watershed to: 1) understand snow accumulation and redistribution, snowmelt timing, rate and partitioning, 2) apply a physically-based model for simulating winter processes on hillslopes and 3) evaluate the impact of soil prescriptions and climate change projections on winter processes in reclaimed systems. The 2017-2018 snow season was between November and April and SWE ranged between 40-140 mm. Snow distribution was primarily influenced by topography with little influence of snow trapping from developing vegetation. Snow accumulation was most variable on hillslopes and redistribution was driven by slope position, with SWE greatest at the base of slopes and decreased towards crests. Snowmelt on hillslopes was controlled by slope aspect, as snow declined rapidly on west and south-facing slopes, compared to east and north-facing slopes. Unlike results previously reported on constructed uplands, snowmelt runoff from uplands was much less (~30%), highlighting the influence of different construction materials. Model simulations indicate that antecedent soil moisture and soil temperature have a large influence on partitioning snowmelt over a range of observed conditions. Under a warmer and wetter climate, average annual peak SWE and snow season duration could decline up to 52 % and up to 61 days, respectively while snowmelt runoff ceases completely under the warmest scenarios. Results suggest considerable future variability in snowmelt runoff from hillslopes, yet soil properties can be used to enhance vertical or lateral flows.


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Increases in salinity following a shift in hydrologic regime in a constructed wetland watershed in a post-mining oil sands landscape
Kelly Biagi, Claire J. Oswald, Erin M. Nicholls, Sean K. Carey
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 653

Bitumen extraction via surface mining in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region results in permanent alteration of boreal forests and wetlands. As part of their legal requirements, oil companies must reclaim disturbed landscapes into functioning ecosystems. Despite considerable work establishing upland forests, only two pilot wetland-peatland systems integrated within a watershed have been constructed to date. Peatland reclamation is challenging as it requires complete reconstruction with few guidelines or previous work in this region. Furthermore, the variable sub-humid climate and salinity of tailings materials present additional challenges. In 2012, Syncrude Canada Ltd. constructed a 52-ha pilot upland-wetland system, the Sandhill Fen Watershed, which was designed with a pump and underdrain system to provide freshwater and enhance drainage to limit salinization from underlying soft tailings materials that have elevated electrical conductivity (EC) and Na+. The objective of this research is to evaluate the hydrochemical response of a constructed wetland to variations in hydrology and water management with respect to water sources, flow pathways and major chemical transformations in the three years following commissioning. Results suggest that active water management practices in 2013 kept EC relatively low, with most wetland sites <1000 μS/cm with Na+ concentrations <250 mg/L. With limited management in 2014 and 2015, the EC increased in the wetland to >1000 μS/cm in 2014 and >2000 μS/cm in 2015. The most notable change was the emergence of several Na+ enriched zones in the margins. Here, Na+ concentrations were two to three times higher than other sites. Stable isotopes of water support that the Na+ enriched areas arise from underlying process-affected water in the tailings, providing evidence of its upward transport and seepage under a natural hydrologic regime. In future years, salinity is expected to evolve in its flow pathways and diffusion, yet the timeline and extent of these changes are uncertain.