Axis 1

Discovering Biodiversity

Research Goal: To describe the genomic, phenotypic, and functional diversity of poorly described components of Québec’s biodiversity, and to link phylogenetic and phylogeographic information to functional species traits.

Research in this axis comprises the discovery of biodiversity at all levels, from genetic to functional, and the evolutionary (phylogenetic) and biogeographical relationships among these levels.

Although Québec has approximately 40,000 described species, a great deal (perhaps up to 80%) of microbial and arthropod diversity remains undescribed, and little is known about the functional diversity inherent in this species pool.

This research axis draws upon the wealth of taxonomic expertise within the QCBS. This area of research has seen tremendous growth because of developments in molecular genetics (e.g. barcoding) and ecoinformatics. However, the science required to link this biodiversity to the functional ecology of the species and the functional diversity of the communities within which they are embedded is in its infancy.

QCBS-funded working groups will allow researchers from this axis to work together through a coherent framework linking these components of diversity.

Axis 1 researchers have access to the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)-funded infrastructure at the Université de Montréal – the Canadian University Biodiversity Consortium, or CUBC – which is designed to generate new biodiversity data and make available the wealth of geospatial, historical, temporal, and ecological data that are contained in biological collections throughout Canada but difficult to access. This infrastructure allows QCBS scientists to discover biodiversity at accelerated rates, especially cryptic but economically important species, such as bacteria, fungi and insects. The flow of taxonomic data from axis 1 into research axes 2 and 3 will add significant value to the $7 million national investment in the CUBC.

Axis 1 Themes:

Theme 1.1: Taxonomy and Inventories

This theme will accelerate the discovery of new species, especially for microbial fauna and flora. The taxonomy component links traditional taxonomic methods of species collection, description and identification, and new genetic approaches that allow the identification of species not yes described in the taxonomic literature and to document population level diversity. The inventory component incorporates data generated by explicit taxonomic studies and by ecological research on focal taxa and habitats. This component is linked directly to the Canadensys initiative.

Theme 1.2: Phylogenetics and Phylogeography

This theme involves studying the phylogenetic relations and phylogeographic constraints among key groups of microbes, plants, and animals critical for ecosystem functioning. Candidate model systems and databases representing many species are already available within the QCBS and are used to resolve numerous questions.

Theme 1.3: Functional Diversity

Functional traits and measures of functional diversity are mapped from the evolving relationships of organisms as determined by information from phylogenetic research. This allows researchers to better understand how environmental change in any one local community can cause concurrent changes in its functional metrics.