WBEA TEEM infographic

1. Source

Pollution is emitted into the air from a variety of sources

2. Deposit

The pollution may be deposited onto the surrounding forest

3. Measure

The WBEA collects sample and information to measure the effect of pollution on the environment

Terrestrial Environmental Effects Monitoring

The Terrestrial Environmental Effects Monitoring (TEEM) Committee first gathered in 1996 to address community concerns about the impacts of oil sands-related air emissions on terrestrial ecosystems. The objective of the TEEM program is:

“To develop and operate a long-term program to detect, characterize and quantify the impact that air emissions have had or may have, in the longer term, on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and on traditional land resources” and was later revised to “implement an approach for establishing/determining cause-effect relationships between air pollutants and forest ecosystem health in the Oil Sands Region.”

To achieve this objective, the WBEA, through TEEM, operates an integrated Atmospheric Deposition Monitoring Program to detect possible impacts of air contaminants on forest health, which is comprised of three monitoring program components: the Deposition Monitoring program; the Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) program; and the Meteorological Monitoring program. The integrated Atmospheric Deposition Program, which is sometimes referred to as the TEEM program, is funded through the Oil Sands Monitoring (OSM) Program and aligns with the OSM Program objective to conduct comprehensive and inclusive monitoring to track impacts from oil sands development.

The WBEA monitors jack pine forest sites that are sensitive to acid deposition to assess whether there are changes to biological, physical, and chemical indicators through a sampling campaign of vegetation, soils, and lichen, every 6 years. Monitoring includes measurements of air quality and deposition (using passive and active air quality samplers and ion exchange resins), a suite of receptors (lichens and vegetation) and associated meteorological instrumentation for evaluation of a broad set of compounds (particulate matter, organic compounds, metals). In addition, data from these programs has informed source apportionment studies that characterized the specific contributions of regional and international source types to deposition within the Wood Buffalo region.

Deposition monitoring is conducted annually at regular intervals throughout the year, which contrasts the six-year cycle of intensive field sampling in the Forest Health Monitoring Program. In both cases, sampling frequency reflects the temporal variability of the environment of interest. Emissions—and subsequent deposition to the landscape—change much more rapidly and require more frequent sampling to provide accurate data.

In 2019, the WBEA completed the analysis of historical data collected by through the Atmospheric Deposition program, in combination with data collected by the Ambient Air Monitoring program, and published nine open access manuscripts in a Virtual Special Issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment. The special issue, entitled “Relationships Between Air Pollutants and Forest Ecosystem Health in the Oil Sands Region, AB, Canada” is available online. Access to the key messages from the manuscripts. View the June 18, 2019 public presentation video.

Deposition Monitoring

To better understand the nature and quantity of the compounds deposited on the regional landscape, and to inform the Forest Health Monitoring program, the WBEA operates a network of air quality (using passive and active air quality samplers) and deposition monitoring sites (using ion exchange resins) in remote locations across the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) for evaluation of a broad set of compounds (particulate matter, organic compounds, metals). The network provides a robust dataset for characterizing atmospheric deposition of specific pollutants relevant to terrestrial ecosystem health. A list of the parameters measured at deposition monitoring sites and a description of these pollutants can be found here.

Passive Air Sampling

Passive samplers are used to measure the average or cumulative concentration of gaseous pollutants over a period of time—typically one (1) month. Passive samplers rely on gas diffusion through a barrier and onto a collection medium chosen for the target gas to be sampled. Since samplers have no moving parts or power requirements, they are well-suited for sampling in remote environments. The WBEA has conducted passive air sampling throughout the Athabasca Oil Sands Region since the late 1990’s and have used this information to model deposition trends across the region.

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Denuder and Filter Pack Sampling

Annular, or cylinder-shaped, denuder and filter pack sampling is an approach for simultaneous sampling of gaseous and particulate‐phase pollutants over a period of time—typically one (1) month. Air is actively drawn through the sampling media with a small pump at a constant flow rate. An annular denuder is a tube containing coaxial glass cylinders coated with a collection medium for the target gases to be sampled. Multiple denuders are used in series (as a train) to target a collection of gases. Particle-phase pollutants or particulate matter is captured on filters downstream of (after) the denuders.

Active samplers, including denuders, provide higher quality data than passive samplers—as active samplers have lower detection limits and fixed sampling rates—but require electrical power and data acquisition systems for determining sample flows. Denuder and filter pack sampling was added to the Deposition Monitoring network in 2015. These systems are supported by the WBEA’s solar-powered meteorological monitoring towers sites and grid-powered ambient air monitoring stations.

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Ion Exchange Resin Sampling

The ion exchange resin (IER) system allows for measurements of atmospheric deposition to ecosystems over a period of time—typically the rain season and the snow season. Sampling media is a column of resin beads that capture cations and anions from precipitation which is directed to the column by a funnel. The resin collectors are replicated in two different environments: the canopy throughfall (TF) installations capture precipitation that has washed through the forest canopy; and, open, canopy‐free areas, referred to as freefall installations (FF), primarily collect wet deposition.

While modeling provides useful information, IERs provide actual measurements of deposition, which must be obtained to validate the critical loads mapping and modeling exercises (developed using passive data) and to assist with interpreting the Forest Health Monitoring datasets. IER sampling was added to the WBEA Deposition Monitoring network in 2007.

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