Biodiversity responses to hydroelectric reservoir management

Featured in Canal Savoir


Photo credits - Raphaelle Thomas
Hydrological modifications to lakes and rivers are a pervasive form of environmental change in Quebec and around the world. While there are clear social benefits to regulate aquatic ecosystems (e.g. flood control, hydroelectricity), the ecological impacts are less clear and represent issues that local communities in Quebec are wrestling with. In particular, winter water level drawdowns are a common practice in north temperate reservoirs, but ecological research on this topic is limited. In partnership with QCBS and local community groups, we have conducted a synthesis of the literature as well as a field survey of reservoirs. Our research has shown that many juvenile and adult fish populations show a surge in abundance following reservoir creation but fish communities as a whole appear to be unaffected by the level of water level drawdown. In contrast, high macroinvertebrate abundances tend to only occur in nearshore sites if they are not exposed by drawdown, suggesting that benthic resources for fish could be limiting. We are now evaluating whether fish growth and diets are altered by water level drawdown. Check out the video made by FQRNT and Canal Savoir covering our preliminary findings. See video here. Click here for more info.



The LEAP project

A state-of-the-art infrastructure for experiments on freshwater ecosystems


Photo credits - Andrew Gonzalez
LEAP is a state-of-the-art field infrastructure for experiments with aquatic ecosystems. The site includes a laboratory and an array of 96 freshwater pond ecosystems located in the research area of the Gault Nature Reserve (GNR), Mont Saint Hilaire, Qc. Many key features of these pond mesocosms can be manipulated. We will combine methods in experimental community ecology and evolution to probe the response of the evolving freshwater ecosystems, held under controlled conditions, as they respond to multiple environmental stressors. Questions related to the evolutionary resilience of freshwater ecosystems are central to Quebec's environmental concerns because 10% of the surface of Quebec is covered by freshwater (e.g., half-a-million lakes). LEAP will foster Quebec's and Canada's commitments to environmental policy by providing research at the cutting edge of applied ecology and evolution at a time of rapid global change. LEAP is embedded in a national and international network of collaborators. LEAP will engage many students and postdoc and so will be a source of highly qualified professionals at a time of growing need for basic knowledge about the resilience of natural ecosystems to anthropogenic environmental change. Click here for more info.

Funding source: Canada Foundation for Innovation, Liber Ero Chair in Conservation Biology, NSERC and McGill University.


Andrew Gonzalez



Green and blue infrastructures in urban areas



Global changes (GC) is increasingly threatening the green infrastructures of our cities, especially trees and its associated vegetation. In fact, these are more and more affected by increased environmental stress levels, insects and exotic diseases. These trees provide, directly and indirectly, as a part of an urban terrestrial ecosystem functioning, numerous ecosystem services which are essential to our well-being. These services are in danger of being significantly reduced in response to growing threats caused by GCs. The underlying hypothesis of this project is that the resistance and resilience of urban and suburban ecosystems, and consequently the ecosystem services which are provided, can be strengthened by favoring a greater structural diversity of ecosystems, a greater functional diversity of trees and associated vegetation and a greater connectivity between green spaces in response to the GC and associated predictions for southern Quebec over the next few years. We will work in Montreal, Ottawa/Gatineau and Quebec City in order to plan biodiversity corridors, to measure flows of ecosystem services and to make an economic evaluation.

Funding source: National Capital Commission, the David Suzuki Foundation, OURANOS and the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science


Danielle Dagenais, Andrew Gonzalez, Jochen Jaeger, Martin Lechowicz



Conflicts on biodiversity

How do stockbreeders from southern Mexico perceive wildlife predation on their livestock and what conservation tools are available to address such conflicts?



Large predators are a cause for concern and a source of various conflicts among various stakeholders regarding their conservation. Among the tools that have been developed to reduce the effects of predation on livestock, compensation programs are one means of dissuading stockbreeders from retaliating against predators by eliminating them. Evaluations of compensation programs are often controversial because, among other reasons, they consider ecological benefits or cost-benefit ratios, but rarely do they consider the view point of the stockbreeders. However, the conservation of large predators ultimately requires the cooperation of stockbreeders. We are interested in the perceptions of stockbreeders regarding the effects of predation by large predators on livestock in an area of Mexico that is home to the country’s largest jaguar population. We are investigating the social factors influencing perceptions of a compensation program that has been implemented over the last few years to improve it so that it meets both jaguar conservation needs and reduces the problems of stockbreeders who are facing livestock losses.



Sex determination in freshwater mussels


Photo credits - Figure de la DUI (Inspirée de Breton et al., 2007)
Contrary to most animals that inherit mitochondrial DNA maternally, several species of bivalves have a fundamentally different mode of transmission, known as Doubly Uniparental Inheritance (DUI). This unique system is characterized by the presence of two distinct mitochondrial genomes: a genome M transmitted by males and found in sperm cells, and a genome F transmitted by females, present in all tissues in females, and in somatic tissues in males. In freshwater mussels, some closely related gonochoric (separate sexes) species have the DUI system, while others hermaphroditic species have lost the mitochondrial male genome. Our project will aim to determine the relationship between the DUI system and its potential role in sex determination.

Funding source: NSERC


Sophie Breton, Charlotte Capt

Added by: Sébastien Renaut


Training on invasive plants



Continuing education training on invasive plant species recognized by Laval University (continuing education unit) and targeted to environmental managers and consultants. This training allows participants to recognize invasive species and the most recent technical advances in order to curb an invasion. Click here for more info.



Games Institutions Play

Addressing the challenges of socio-ecological systems' multi-level governance


Photo credits - Conceptual diagram depicting inter-institutional pitfall framework presents the “inter-institutional pitfall framework”, which highlights four possible interactional gaps that could occur between formal and informal institutional regimes.
For this project, supported by a QCBS seed grant, a group of student members (from the Gordon Hickey, Murray Humphries and Ismael Vaccaro labs) developed a conceptual framework to better highlight the problem of inter-institutional gaps between informal and formal institutions. The framework was applied to four international case studies. They found that understanding the complex interactions between institutions can provide substantial knowledge for practitioners and policy-makers seeking more effective frameworks to support sustainable resource management. The article will soon be submitted to the journal Ecology and Society. Authors: H. M. Tuihedur Rahman, Arlette Saint Ville, Andrew M. Song, June Y. T. Po, Elsa Berthet, Jeremy Brammer, Nicolas D. Brunet, Lingaraj Jayaprakash, Kristen Lowitt, Archi Rastogi, Graeme Reed, Gordon M. Hickey.



Batwatch!

Help save the bats!



New initiatives have been implemented to allow canadian research to face the threat of the white-nose syndrome that is decimating bat populations all over Canada, the United States and Europe. The problem is such as 90 to 100% of those touched by this microscopic fungus have died in the last few years. Thus, a new partnership between the MFFP, the QCBS and the University of Winnipeg has permitted the elaboration of a program that encourages the participation of civilians. They are given the duty of reporting the presence of abnormal behaviors or of dead bats. This will provide more data for researchers to monitor and help prevent the eradication of bat colonies. For more information or to participate, please visit: Chauve souris aux abris Click here for more info.

Funding source: the MFFP, the QCBS and the University of Winnipeg


Anouk Simard, Murray Humphries

Added by: Guillaume Larocque


Sugar maple and climate change

When the sugar maple climbs up mountains...


Photo credits - Morgane Urli
Tree species distributions are shifting due to climate change. Various environmental factors can explain these distribution shifts, but their relationship to climate change is not well understood yet. To better understand such relationships, Morgane Urli, a postdoctoral fellow in Mark Vellend's lab, is leading a project at Mont-Mégantic focusing on a tree species of economic interest in southern Quebec: the sugar maple. This project aims to determine the factors controlling sugar maple regeneration along an altitudinal gradient including the boreal-temperate forest ecotone. The abundance of mature trees decreases with elevation up to the tree line, but they observed that seedling density is greater at high elevation than at low elevation. Climate change might make habitats more favourable to seedlings than they were previously. However, it is surprising to observe weaker seedling regeneration at lower elevation right in the center of the sugar maple distribution area. Two principal hypotheses to explain such observations are a greater herbivory pressure from insects at lower elevation and a varying water availability for seedlings along the altitudinal gradient. A transplant experiment is currently underway to test these hypotheses. More information on this experiment is available at chercheurjourapresjour.blogspot.ca. Click here for more info.