Organized by the QCBS working group on urban biodiversity and the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale

19th of March, 2015,  8:30 am- 5:00 pm

McGill University, New Residence Hall

3625 Parc Ave., Montreal, Quebec H2X 3P8

General description

With increasing impermeable surfaces, the fragmentation and destruction of habitats and biotic homogenisation, our cities are generally considered as poor or even hostile to biodiversity. Could it be otherwise? How can we capitalize on the positive elements of cities to better plan and design for increased biodiversity? This conference will focus on presenting how research coupled with local initiatives has allowed the cities of Berlin in Germany and Melbourne in Australia to meet these objectives. Advances in Quebec regarding this theme will also be presented. This is a unique opportunity for those who care or want to learn more about urban biodiversity and its relevance to urban design to exchange with experts in this dynamic field!


Guest speakers:ingo_kowarik

Ingo Kowarik, Professor of Ecosystem Science and Plant Ecology at the Technical University Berlin ( For short bio click here)

Title of presentation: Integration of biodiversity conservation into urban development: the example of Berlin (For more details click here)


Nicholas (Nick) Williams,  Plant ecologist, Green Infrastructure Research Group (GIRG) at Nick_Williams_22319The University of Melbourne, Australia (For short bio click here)

Title of presentation: Increasing urban biodiversity habitat using green infrastructure. (For more details click here)




Dr.  Ingo  Kowarik is a full professor of Ecosystem Science/Plant Ecology at the Department of Ecology, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany (since 1999). Ingo has a background as landscape planner and plant ecologist. His scientific interests focus on (i) urban biodiversity patterns and underlying mechanisms, (ii) impacts of plant invasions inside and outside cities, and (iii) approaches to enhance biodiversity functions within the urban green infrastructure. Ingo also serves as voluntary State Commissioner of Nature Conservation and Landscape Management of the federal state of Berlin. In this function, he has been involved in many processes of developing Berlin’s green infrastructure.

Integration of biodiversity conservation into urban development: the example of Berlin

In a rapidly urbanizing world, two questions gain increasingly importance: how urban land use types could contribute to biodiversity conservation, and how biodiversity issues can be integrated into urban development. Traditional urban conservation approaches focus on the protection or restoration of natural remnants. The example of Berlin illustrates that both natural remnants and human-modified ecosystems such as parks or novel urban-industrial habitats can harbor a considerably high biological richness, yet with varying conservation functions among ecosystems along a gradient of ecological novelty. These insights led to a diversification of urban conservation strategies in Berlin, with three major approaches: (i) protection of conservation areas since the early 20th century, involving also human-mediated ecosystems; (ii) linking conservation and social issues, and incorporating both into planning instruments since the late 1980es (“Landscape programme”); and (iii), involving a broad range of stakeholders in developing and implementing an urban biodiversity strategy that covers all land use types (since 2010). Experience from Berlin illustrates that cooperation between science, NGOs and politics can successfully enhance a biodiverse urban development.

Dr. Nicholas (Nick) Williams is an ecologist who works predominantly in urban areas because although he realises cities cause of many of the world’s environmental problems they offer one of humanity’s best hopes for a sustainable future. Nick seeks to understand urban biodiversity patterns and ecosystem processes and develop applied solutions to reduce negative impacts of urbanization such as biodiversity loss, excess urban heat, stormwater runoff and CO2 emissions. His biodiversity research focuses on vegetation, in particular native grasslands and plant traits, but he has also worked on mammals, molluscs and increasingly with insects. Together with social scientist colleagues Nick has even investigated the most complex aspect of urban environments – humans! In 2007 he established a research program to develop and evaluate the benefits of green infrastructure, in particular vegetated roofs, as a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy for Australian cities. Together with colleagues Steve Livesley and John Rayner, Nick leads the Green Infrastructure Research Group (GIRG) at The University of Melbourne. Recent projects include quantifying the biodiversity benefits of urban green space habitats such as gardens, parks and golf courses, developing  urban design guidelines to mitigate urban heat and evaluating the effectiveness of wildlife gardening programs. Nick has published over 40 scientific papers and regularly presents his work at national and international conferences.

Increasing urban biodiversity habitat using green infrastructure.

Because we cannot create more remnant habitat, biodiversity conservation and enhancement in urban areas will rely on modifying the existing urban green infrastructure in cities so they better support biodiversity. Urban Green infrastructure, the residential yards, parks, recreation areas, street trees, rain gardens and green roofs that make up our cities may support substantial existing biodiversity but often this is a limited suite of species that can cope with altered urban habitats. We have conducted intensive biodiversity surveys in Melbourne’s residential gardens, large urban golf courses, small urban parks and green roofs for a range of fauna taxa and related their diversity to local habitat and landscape  characteristics.  Golf courses appear to be important reservoirs of urban biodiversity, having the greatest species richness of birds, insect eating bats and bees and abundance of beetles and true bugs.  A key to this is greater vegetation structural complexity of native plant species. Increasing the planting of native species in urban green infrastructure to increase vegetation structure and altering management to reduce the ecological sanitisation and simplification of urban landscapes will significantly improve urban biodiversity.   Similar principles apply to novel green infrastructure such as green roofs and rain gardens which are currently designed primarily for objectives other than biodiversity.


8:30 am: Registration opens

8:50 am: Welcome / Danielle Dagenais / Presentation of the Working Group

9:00 am: Integration of biodiversity conservation into urban development: the example of Berlin / Ingo Kowarik

9:45 am: Question period

10:00 am: Coffee break

10:20 am: IDENT-Cité Ahuntsic-Cartierville. Un projet de recherche et de sensibilisation à l’importance de la diversité en ville / Alain Paquette, Christian Messier et Nathalie Lapointe

In 2009 we established the first of a network of diversity and ecosystem functioning experiments with trees. The International Diversity Experiment Network with Trees (IDENT) now comprises six sites, in both North America and Europe. The first, established in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, has over 12,000 trees of 19 species planted in communities of different composition varying in specific (1 to 12 species) and functional diversity. Early results show that growth and the functioning of the ecosystem are ameliorated with an increase in diversity. The objective of the Ahuntsic-Cartierville project is to bring people to better consider the importance of choosing the right tree and of having a diversity of species with varying ecological characteristics in order to maximise the benefits they provide in the city, for example to our health. The installation is integrated to the Parcours Gouin and the Maison Verte of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, an integrated conception project. The experiment, to be installed in spring 2015, will include the millionth tree planted for science by the TreeDivNet, of which IDENT is a member. The installation is a spiral that will bring the public to experiment first hand a gradient of increasing diversity in species, forms, and functions, along a path. Animation will take both live and permanent forms, and continues and punctual measurements of the effect of diversity will be carried out.

10:50 am: Dynamique écologique et biodiversité des ruisseaux urbains : le cas de Laval / Marie-Christine Bellemare et Beatrix Beisner

Streams and waterways in urban environments have been subject to large anthropogenic perturbations in the past decades. Many of the few streams that still remain in large cities following development projects have come to resemble open sewers as a result of canalisation, course deviation and human encroachment. In the city of Laval, still today, stream restoration projects have as their principal goal only the regulation of storm water flow to reduce the risk of flooding in urban areas. What are the effects of this type of practice on the ecological dynamics of streams? In addition to their hydrological role, urban streams can, and must, contribute to improved water quality and biological diversity conservation in urban zones; to do so these ecosystems must be ecologically functional. Toward better protection, prevention of further degradation and restoration of such ecosystems, a preliminary evaluation of their ecological state is required. The goal of the current research is to evaluate the ecological state and biodiversity of urban streams in Laval, using both biological and physical indicators linked to quantitative estimates of urbanisation. The project is planned to occur over a period of 10 years, sampling the length of all streams on the island, and has two main goals: (i) evaluation of the ecological state of urban stream ecosystems and (ii) the eventual restoration of certain sites thus identified, in collaboration with the city of Laval, the Fondation de la faune du Québec, and the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec.

11:10 am: How can the connectivity of the greenway network in Southwest Montreal be improved? Scenarios for enhancing the wellbeing of biodiversity and humans / Megan Deslauriers et Jochen A.G. Jaeger

Connectivity is the “degree to which the landscape facilitates or impedes movement among resource patches” (Taylor et al. 1993) and can be used to assess the extent to which the built environment permits wildlife and humans to move between habitats and recreational sites. In Southwest Montreal, a greenway network has been proposed to improve access to these spaces. Plans for residential development on the site of the Meadowbrook Golf Course may however, compromise the viability of this network by decreasing access to high quality habitat and public space. Connectivity for this network was measured using the effective mesh size (meff); a metric implemented as Indicator 2 of the City Biodiversity Index (CBI). We applied this method to assess the role of the Meadowbrook golf course for the connectivity of the greenway network in Southwest Montreal and the effect that its development would have, comparing various scenarios. Current and potential future levels of connectivity were measured for spaces used by wildlife and by urban residents. Presently, spaces available for wildlife are limited and somewhat isolated due to large distances and structures, such as roads, that impede movement between them. However, the identification of sites to be enhanced or established as habitats or recreational zones in the future exposed the possibility to increase connectivity substantially in the network. The destruction of Meadowbrook would eliminate its large potential to serve as a vital component of this greenway network in the future. We recommend that city planners consider the great potential of this site

11:30 am: Biodiversité des abeilles sauvages dans deux villes québécoises et contribution de l’agriculture urbaine/ Étienne Normandin, Nicolas J. Vereecken, Chris Buddle, Valérie Fournier

Urbanization is one of the most pervasive anthropogenic processes contributing to local habitat losses and extirpation of lots of species. Wild bees are the most widespread pollinators, but little information is known about the mechanisms of urbanization affecting the wild bee communities and which kinds of urban green spaces are contributing the most to their conservation in cities. Yet, in Canada, no extensive study on urban wild bees has been conducted. The main objective of this study was to describe and compare wild bee community diversity, composition, and dynamics in two cities – Montréal and Québec City. These components of biodiversity were measured in three kinds of habitats – cemeteries, community gardens, and urban parks – and their conservation value is also discussed. The bees were collected with pan traps and active netting in 2012 and 2013 using 46 sites each year. A total of 32 237 specimens from 200 species and 6 families were identified. Despite good community evenness, we found a significant occurrence of dominant and exotic species. Moreover, the spatio-temporal analysis displaying the wild bee community stability shows unique dynamics for each city. This demonstrates that cities can sustain a highly diverse community of wild bees, but also impacts their community structure. Finally, our results reveal that community gardens harbour the highest functional diversity. The urban agriculture performed in those gardens thus contributes substantially to the conservation of wild bee biodiversity.

11:50 am: Lunch

1:20 pm: Increasing urban biodiversity habitat using green infrastructures / Nicholas Williams

2:05 pm: Question period

2:20 pm: Protecting the l’Anse a l’Orme Ecoforest Corridor: A Montreal Island Biodiversity Hotspot / Ryan Young

City Councillor and Naturalist Ryan Young will discuss the history of the grassroots movement to protect the Rivière à l’Orme ecoforest corridor.  His talk will also highlight the wealth of biodiversity in the area and discuss some of the opportunities and challenges policy makers have when it comes to conserving the area. Growing up in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue since he was a small child, he has explored the area since he was old enough to be left alone with his friends to explore the woods. Today he continues to explore the area as a birder and naturalist and monitors and maintains over 20 Wood Duck nestboxes. In his role as a Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue city councilor he continues to guide many of the policies the municipality has implemented to safeguard the biological diversity of the Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue portion of the ecoforest corridor.  Before being elected as a city councilor Ryan was on the board of directors of the Green Coalition and was involved in the Association for the Protection of Angell Woods.

2:40pm: Vers l’implantation d’une Ceinture et trame verte dans la grande région de Montréal / Jérome Dupras

This conference first describes the region’s environmental and political context and then analyzes the opportunities, constraints, advantages and disadvantages in the implementation of a green network in Greater Montreal. Through the analysis of semi-structured interviews held with key actors involved in the planning of the region, we seek to understand the conditions that could lead to the establishment of this type of project. We conclude that experts favor an approach leading to ecological connectivity, but they underline several obstacles that could hinder its implementation.

3:00 pm: Coffee break

3:20 pm: Indicateurs de l’intégrité écologique et de la biodiversité des milieux aquatiques de la ville de Montréal/ Bernadette Pinel-Alloul, Ilinca Marinescu, El-Amine Mimouni, Maryse Robert et Deborah Kufner

Urban ponds and lakes are important habitats which play an essential role in the conservation of aquatic biodiversity in urban area. Therefore it is necessary to develop knowledge on aquatic ecosystems in large cities in order to select the best bioindicators for assessing their ecological integrity, and particularly their water quality. In this study, we tested the potential of metrics based on plankton and benthic communities as useful bioindicators to evaluate biodiversity and water quality in 20 urban waterbodies (ponds, lakes and wetlands) of the Island of Montréal. Metrics based on the richness and composition of phytoplankton, zooplankton and macroinvertebrates served to distinguish specific groups of permanent and temporary waterbodies. Despite their location in an urban landscape and the consequently human stressors, waterbodies in Montréal are essential habitats for sustaining aquatic biodiversity at local and regional scales, as showed for pelagic and benthic communities. Aquatic vegetation in littoral habitats constitutes an important refuge for biodiversity, and temporary ponds offer unique conditions for very rare species. We evaluated the relationships between metrics and environmental characteristics to (pond origin and management, urban landscape, water quality and eutrophication) to select the best bioindicators for the future assessment of biodiversity conservation and water quality of urban ponds and lake in Montreal.

3:40 pm: Diversité spécifique et fonctionnelle dans les forêts riveraines en milieu urbain / Marie-Hélène Brice, Stéphanie Pellerin, Monique Poulin

Riparian forests provide several ecosystem services, in addition to being biodiversity hotspots. However, in urban areas, the intensity of human disturbance can transform the composition and functioning of these ecosystems. This project aims to understand the effects of urbanization on both species diversity and functional diversity of plants in riparian forests. To this end, floristic inventories were carried out in 57 riparian forests in the Montreal region. In order to study the change in combinations with urbanization, eight functional traits were documented for each species. Each forest has been characterized by variables related to the surrounding urban landscape, local forest conditions and spatial processes generated by stream. These three variables subsets explained about 40% of the variation of the functional composition of the herbaceous and the majority of this variation was spatially structured (30%). The dispersion along the stream appears to be an important process in structuring plant communities. The study of species diversity revealed new aspects of the distribution of vegetation in urban riparian forests. The LCBD indices (local contribution to beta diversity) describe the uniqueness of the plant community in each forest. The comparison with species richness showed that LCBD was negatively correlated with species richness (r = -0.60). This relationship was mostly linked to the strong negative correlation between LCBD and native species richness (r = -0.68), while the correlation with the exotic species richness was nil. Thus, forests with unique species composition were often very poor in native herbaceous species.

4:00 pm : La biodiversité des friches urbaines : un attrait pour les usagers/ Maude Léonard, M. Juan J. Torres, Danielle Dagenais

Multiple studies indicate that urban fallow areas with a plant cover hold flora and fauna of interest. Moreover, in many cities throughout the world, such lands are also utilized by humans for multiple purposes. These purposes for use and associated activities are still relatively unknown. In order to fill this knowledge gap, an exploratory study was conducted in two fallow areas with user groups: the Champ des Possibles in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough and the Boisé Jean-Milot in the Anjou borough of the City of Montreal. For this work, we used a qualitative approach. We conducted 22 semi structured interviews with users representing different profile groups. Interview materials were analysed thematically. Nine practice types were identified. Some activities were directly linked to plant and insect diversity. The wild and spontaneous nature, the plant structure and the diversity of ambiances associated with biodiversity found in these areas were perceived as important qualities by users. Our cases indicate that fallow areas are indeed important green spaces, complementary to urban parks. These results can lead to innovation in the planning and design of new types of urban green spaces as well as change our perceptions of diversify in city landscapes.

4:20 pm: Closing remarks