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Oily Animals

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute says the population of some species actually increases near the oil sands

Mar 19, 2014

by Alberta Venture Staff

Environmentalists have long worried that oil sands development negatively affects native plants and animals, and many studies suggest those concerns are valid. But it turns out that some species may in fact be oil-sands supporters that vote with their feet (or paws or hooves).

In fact, while the number of brown chickadees and red squirrels has decreased around the oil sands, a new study by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, which assessed impacts on more than 50 species of plants, insects and animals in the region, suggests that others have – get this! – increased.

015_RiskReward_storyimage1Plant Matters
Love raspberries? Well, you’re in luck. The study found that wild red raspberries and woodland strawberries grow readily in disturbed areas (which the oil sands has a lot of) like road edges and recently cleared forests. Cranberries, on the other hand, don’t do as well in areas with increased human development.
015_RiskReward_storyimage2Birds Of A Feather
Woodpeckers are apparently pro-development, since they use the resulting dead or dying trees for nesting and foraging. The study found that the pileated woodpecker and hairy woodpecker were both more common in areas with in-situ or mineable oil sands development. Other birds, like the winter wren, preferred in-situ sites to mineable areas.
015_RiskReward_storyimage3Fuzzy Wuzzy Animals
While you’re less likely to see caribou in the Athabasca oil sands, don’t despair. River otters are becoming more plentiful, as are deer. Coyotes have seemingly also gotten a boost from development in the area, while other carnivores such as wolves and foxes seem to be fond of in-situ sites.
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