Discovering biodiversity





Research Goal

The objective of this axis is to accelerate the discovery of biodiversity at all levels, from genetics to functional, through microbiomes, species and communities, and particularly with respect to cryptic and taxonomically challenging species of significant economic importance such as bacteria, fungi and insects. The QCBS relies on data collection and sharing initiatives developed by its members, such as the Canadian Aerial Biodiversity Observatory that uses spectranomics to study changes in plant assemblages. The Observatoire des Écosystèmes du Québec setting up a informatic structure allowing the construction of an automated atlas of the biodiversity of Quebec, or Canadensys dedicated to the public diffusion of information held in biological collections. These infrastructures will accelerate the pace of biodiversity discoveries in a context of species surveillance, emerging diseases, extinction and environmental changes.




Axis 1 Themes:

Theme 1.1: Taxonomy and Systematics

This theme will accelerate the discovery of new species (particularly for microscopic organisms), the documentation of invasions and extinctions, and the development of inventories at various taxonomic and geographic scales. It also aims to study phylogenetic relationships and phylogeographic constraints of key groups contributing to ecosystem functioning. This axis draws and builds on a variety of resources from molecular tools, to morphological descriptions, model systems and biological databases already available at the QCBS such as Canadensys. Researchers are also developing a variety of approaches such as l’Observatoire des Écosystèmes du Québec, which will set up a computer structure producing an automated atlas of Quebec biodiversity, and the Canadian Aerial Biodiversity Observatory that will study biodiversity changes across Canada, using emerging spectranomics technology.

Theme 1.2: Genetic Diversity

For the last ten years, novel high throughput sequencing methods have enabled QCBS researchers to study genetic diversity in several key taxonomic groups of microorganisms, plants and animals. Genetic diversity, which represents the adaptive potential of species, ensures long-term population viability. Phylogenomics studies will allow to identify phylogenetic relationships between organisms in a more precise and rigorous way, while approaches that use environmental DNA are revolutionizing the census and discovery of aquatic species. For its part, metagenomics studies are bringing a new component to the concept of species as a holobiome (the microbial community and its host). All these approaches, made possible by high throughput sequencing and commonly used by QBCS researchers, will allow a more holistic view of biodiversity and its discovery.

Theme 1.3: Functional Diversity

Ecosystem function and services are closely connected with traditional measures of biodiversity, and functional diversity quantifies the interactions and traits associated with genetic and taxon diversity. Functional traits and measures of functional diversity are mapped from the evolving relationships of organisms as determined by information from phylogenetic research. Using techniques from macroecology and by mapping energy flow, QCBS researchers will be able to better understand how environmental change in any one local community can cause concurrent changes in functional metrics (i.e. ecosystem services; competition; life history; metabolism, energetics and physiology; predator-prey interactions). In particular, understanding the processes underlying functional diversity can lead to better estimation of ecosystem resilience in the face of anthropogenic and other risks.