Resources for Using Landscape Architecture to Reclaim Oil Sands

Hi there, I'm wondering if anyone can offer some resources for how Landscape Architecture might be used to remediate oil sands sites? Everything I've found so far is generally experimental, and given my lack of knowledge, I'm having trouble finding plausible solutions. For example, reconstructed wetlands have been piloted, but criticized for their potential to attract and harm water birds and other wildlife. Thank you for your input! 

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On the biological/ecological scientific studies side there are cited works such as here: related to phytoremediation. Different species are tested for their potential and effectiveness. Some searching using 'phytoremediation' should pull up results. Another interesting potential is the usage of mycoremediation; fungi. Of course, not too many people are versed in using fungi as landscaping. Some cross study with agricultural species could be attempted. 

Therefore a landscape architect can plan on using plants with a record of testing, with attention to the species suitability for the local climate of the site. Such areas would be necessarily not accessible, but designing a view garden/landscape to accentuate areas of a site where people can occupy in the manner of Japanese Shakkei is entirely possible. 

I'm interested in the criticism of constructed wetlands. Where there was no habitat prior, any habitat at all would be a net gain. Furthermore, a properly engineered wetland doing the clean up process naturally reduces pollution exposure vs. ducks wading in parking lot runoff and exposing themselves to antifreeze. 

Hi Jamie, thank you for your reply! I actually came across an article on mycoremediation a few weeks ago and I found it really interesting, so I'm glad you are aware of it as well. In terms of constructed wetlands, I did see an article that touted the benefits of creating constructed uplands as a more viable alternative, but there hasn't been much research done so far to back it up (at least that I've seen). Thank you again for the links/resources, I'll definitely check them out! 

I just found a book review by ASLA of a text solely about phytoremediation:

Here is the author's landscape firm website with further resources:

I have worked in brownfields, which involves the remediation of oil contaminated sites. In my experience, the liability aspects of site redevelopment lead the discussion. If this is a site that will not be redeveloped, you will have greater flexibility with experimenting or using experimental green technologies/methods to meet your management objectives. There are lots of consultants working in environmental assessments and remediation. The process generally starts with a Phase I assessment to look at the history of the site. Then they do a Phase II to test the soil and ground water. This quantifies the contamination. EPA is the federal entity involved, and they may have grant funding to help with the process. Your state may also have an active brownfields program, and if oil sands are not unusual in your region, your state environmental agency would likely be a good place to start. 

I am also interested in biosystems and ecological restoration, which is what I think of when I read your question. However, in my experience, these sites are often driven more from a liability, economic, and redevelopment perspective. I would not advise anyone to acquire or receive ownership of properties such as these until you know what is involved from a liability perspective. Title transfer usually carries all of the liability concerns as well, even if no money changes hands.

I am not sure that's on point for your question, but I hope it helps a bit. Good luck!

Hi Christa, I'm actually working on a student project that's theoretical (sorry I should have mentioned that), but thank you so much for your reply! It really gave me an insight into how these types of sites are dealt with in the "real world".  


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