Spontaneous vegetation versus restoration, biodiversity in urban ecosystems

Moderator: Danielle Dagenais, Université de Montreal


Danielle Dagenais est Professeure agrégée, École d’architecture de paysage, Université de Montréa. Elle est chercheure associée à la Chaire en paysage et environnement de l’Université de Montréal (CPEUM), à la Chaire UNESCO en paysage et environnement de l’Université de Montréal (CUPEUM), au Centre d’études et de recherches internationales de l’Université de Montréal (CÉRIUM) et au Centre de la science de la biodiversité du Québec (CSBQ).  Ses recherches portent sur les phytotechnologies (toits verts, systèmes végétalisés de gestion des eaux pluviales, etc), l’intégration paysagère et aspects techniques, la nature urbaine et le concepts écologiques et conception paysagère. Danielle travaillais en particulier sur « L’implantation urbaine des toits verts extensifs dans le contexte canadien : acceptabilité sociale, critères de design et stratégies d’implantation », Programme d’enjeux environnementaux canadiens, Conseil de recherche en sciences humaines du Canada.

Abstract: Current practices in ecosystem restoration range from intensive intervention (enrichment and tillage, seeding and planting predetermined species) that aim to reproduce a situation before it is disturbed to a more flexible approach based on colonization of the site by spontaneous vegetation. How do the results of these two opposing approaches compare in terms of biodiversity, functionality and social acceptability of the resulting ecosystem? This roundtable discussion will provide an update on this controversial issue and how it fits into current issues of biodiversity loss, proliferation of invasive species, city adaptation to climat change and social demand for nature.

Street spontaneous vegetation and urban structures

Nathalie Machon, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris, France


She pursued her thesis at Université d’Orsay (France) on genetic variability of forest trees from 2001 to 2005 and was in office as a lecturer at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (France) from 1996 to 2005 to work on genetic problems of vegetation population which are low in number.  She is a professor of ecology at the Museum since 2005. Her research focuses on highlighting relationships between human activity and plant diversity: an axis aims to work particularly on success factors of plans for the restoration of rare and threatened plant species. Another axis studies the relationships among urban structure, management and quality of urban vegetation communities. She is the coordinator of two participative science projects whose purpose is the flora: Vigie-flore employs networks of French botanists in order to monitor the flora on the metropolitan territory and « Sauvages de ma rue » encourage non-specialists citizens to get to know their street spontaneous flora and send inventory data.

Abstract: The city is a strictly controlled artificial environment for any plant or animal species that wants to settle in it. However, more and more studies highlight the relationship between the quality of biodiversity and the well-being of citizens. Maintaining and improving the quality of urban biodiversity requires the presence of favourable sites for the development of species as well as connections between those sites. The aim of this presentation is to define what flora settles spontaneously in cities and how migrations between vegetation communities organizes in relationship with urban structures. This project has been developed using two kinds of data : (1) data collected from volunteer citizens on the flora of their sidewalks as part of the « Sauvages de ma rue » project aiming to highlight the characteristics of vegetal species populating cities as a function of the intensity of urbanization and pattern of neighbourhoods and (2) data collected by botanists for the past 4 years on vegetation from 1500 bases of trees allowing to work on displacement of species, between structures, year on year.

The value of spontaneous vegetation in cities

Jeremy Lundholm, Saint Mary’s University, NS, Canada


Jeremy Lundholm is a plant community ecologist.  His research interests are in urban ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in constructed ecosystems, plant coexistence and diversity patterns.  He is an associate professor in the Biology and Environmental Science Departments at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Abstract: Urban spontaneous vegetation is found everywhere in cities, at “sites” spanning a range of spatial scales.  Here I synthesize the results of several field studies on plant and arthropod diversity, provisioning of ecosystem services and the role of habitat heterogeneity on species diversity.  Vacant lots in the Halifax area support many plant species, although roughly 50% are not native.  Such habitats support higher levels of insect diversity and abundance than other habitats such as lawns and urban forests.  The main predictor of arthropod diversity in vacant lots is plant diversity.  It may not be worth investing in restoring vacant lot habitats, as they are not close in structure or function to any native plant communities in the region, and are frequently the subject of redevelopment.  Scarce resources should be allocated to the restoration of urban forest remnants, where native species diversity is still high, but is threatened by invasive species and other issues associated with proximity to residential housing.  Spontaneous vegetation in Xi’an, China is subject to much harsher urban conditions than many North America cities, yet still exhibits associations with environmental gradients, leading to positive richness-environmental heterogeneity relationships.  The value of this vegetation, where most of the common species are not native, is questionable, but it may have some utility in remediating severely degraded sites.  Finally, I discuss some of the cultural values associated with urban spontaneous vegetation.

The open movement in biodiversity science: tools and data sharing practices

Moderator: Timothée Poisot, UQAR, and QCBS student representative


Timothy Poisot is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Quebec at Rimouski, and Marsden post-doctoral fellow at the University of Canterbury. His research focuses on the changes in the structure of ecological communities and its consequences for ecosystem properties.

Abstract: The structure surrounding the process of publishing scientific papers is quickly changing, and it is necessary to adapt our practices to this new reality. I illustrate how the use of preprint servers, and the open sharing of data (i) increases the visibility of researchers early in their careers, making available their scientific output in conjunction with the (long) editorial process and (ii) has long-term benefits for the entire scientific community by opening access to information.

A data toolkit for open science

Scott Chamberlain, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Simon Fraser University


Scott Chamberlain is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Biology Department at Simon Fraser University. He works with rOpenSci, an organization that creates open source software to make open scientific data and metadata easily available programmatically.

Abstract: The products and raw materials of science, including papers, data, and code, are increasingly moving on to the web and coming out from behind paywalls. This means scientists have easy access to these products, at least those that are freely available. While the growing amount of scientific resources on the web holds great potential for advancing research, the absence of tools is preventing scientists from taking full advantage. A common science workflow includes many different tools, or software applications (e.g., browser + Excel + SigmaPlot + SAS); this worfklow increases the possibility for mistakes and is difficult to reproduce. rOpenSci – a collaborative effort to build open source tools to facilitate open science – is building bridges between data resources on the web and the open source R software, a programming environment already familiar to many biologists. The tools we are building provide ways to do data acquisition and data sharing in the open source R environment, where you can manipulate, analyze, and visualize the data, creating a worfklow inside a single software application. This facilitates replicable workflows, makes collaboration easier, and can spur open science.

Training session title: Consuming and sharing data in R

Nordicana D : the new CEN open-access data journal

Geneviève Allard, UQAR


Associate coordinator at the Centre for Northern Studies (CEN : Centre d’études nordiques) and Coordinator of the BORÉAS research group on northern environments at UQAR, Geneviève Allard  supports research activities in Northern Environmental science. She is involved in the management of CEN’s Qaujisarvik research station network and SILA network of climate and environmental observatories. She contributed to the creation of Nordicana-D. This toll aids the management of data sets, ensures and maximizes the exchange and accessibility of relevant data for various stakeholders, and provides a lasting legacy of CEN monitoring and research activities.

Abstract: The Centre for Northern Studies (CEN – Centre d’études nordiques) studies geosystems and ecosystems in the changing north. The CEN Network is composed of 9 research stations and 80 automat­ed climate stations, and extends across a 3500 km gradient of ecozones, from boreal forest to extreme polar desert environ­ments in the Canadian High Arctic. Established over many years through close collaborations with aboriginals, govern­ment agencies, and universities, the Network has been a key element in developing formal accords with other nations for joint research activities. The CEN Network is a substantive and unique contribution by Canada to the pan-Arctic SAON initiative, particularly with its insertion into the circumpolar program INTERACT. To archive and disseminate environmental data, CEN established Nordicana series D, a formatted, peer-reviewed, online data report series archived at CEN. Produced only in electronic form, the recorded data and derived values (daily, month and annual means) are freely and openly accessible to all. Each issue is indexed via an assigned Digital Object Identifier (DOI), is cross-referenced in the Polar Data Catalogue, contains extensive metadata, photographic documentation and citation details.

Government Biological Diversity Guidelines 2013

Sabrina Courant, Chargée de projet en biodiversité, MDDEFP

In October 2010, in Nagoya, Japan, the new Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, was adopted, identifying twenty concrete objectives that are collectively known as the Aichi Targets. The plan and the Aichi Targets form the background for Québec’s renewed efforts toward conserving biological diversity on its territory. These government guidelines were adopted in June 2013, and directly involve Government of Quebec ministries and organisations. They are expected to exert positive influence on the way civil society participates in the determination and implementation of actions that help reach the Aichi and Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 targets. The proposed approach is founded on three fundamental issues that are captured under the three inseparable dimensions of sustainable development. These three issues can be subdivided into seven major government guidelines that will be presented during this talk.

An observatory of biodiversity for Quebec

Moderator:  Andrew Gonzalez, McGill University, QCBS Director

The intensification in the use of the territory in a context of climate change represents a great challenge for the scientific community which nevertheless sees in this the opportunity for Quebec to put together a long term and global monitoring system for biodiversity to study actual and future responses of biodiversity to natural and anthropogenic changes. The QCBS wishes to support the creation of the Quebec observatory for biodiversity, one of the big projects for the strategic cluster and its partners. On the long term, in a perspective of adaptative management for the Quebec territory, this observatory aim at gathering and to publish the information needed to develop the predictive models we need to assess changes of the biodiversity and of associated ecological services in order to manage them at best we can.

Presentation of the sites and resources which can be pooled by the partners

Establishing a monitoring system : Pedro Peres Neto, UQAM

The CSBQ sites : Andrew Gonzalez, McGill

The GRIL sites : Beatrix Beisner, UQAM

The CEF sites : Louis Bernier et Daniel Kneeshaw, UQAM

The CEN sites : Genevieve Allard, UQAR

Panel : CSBQ-GRIL-CEF-CEN-MDDEFP around the following questions: what are the needs, what are the stakes : scientific and technical – what would be the more integrative formula, what are the existing resources which can be pooled to have a first observatory.

This panel aim at preparing a workshop which will gather the potential partners in order to refine the concept of the Quebec observatory for biodiversity.