Thursday 18 October 2012, 8AM


Montréal, UQAM


The main goal of the conference is to answer these following questions: where and how far is the current research on urban ecosystems of Quebec? Which multidisciplinary and relevant research designs are used in this domain? Click here to view the detailed program.

Abstracts and Biographies

Understanding the Urban Ecology of Baltimore: Scope, Outcomes, and Evolution of a Long-Term Ecological Research Project

Steward T.A. Pickett Distinguished Senior Scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Box AB, Millbrook NY 12545 USA Urbanization has become a dominant demographic and environmental force worldwide.  Ecology, as the study of organisms, their interactions, and the transformations of energy and matter in which they engage, is a relative latecomer to the urban stage. Yet ecological information is crucial to improving cities and suburbs as habitats for people and for biodiversity.  Examples of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, Long-Term Ecological Research project illustrate key ecological features of urban systems, and point out some links to biodiversity.  Illustrative results show that 1) components of the urban ecosystem contribute to nutrient retention and pollution reduction downstream; 2) spatial heterogeneity is associated with ecosystem function; 3) social heterogeneity interacts with bioecological heterogeneity; and 4) urban riparian function exhibits unexpected patterns.  The ecological structures and functions documented in the metropolitan Baltimore ecosystem have implications for sustainability planning and for promoting urban resilience.  The future focus of the project emphasizes urban transformations from the sanitary to the sustainable city, combining concern with human wellbeing and attention to biodiversity. Steward Pickett is a Distinguished Senior Scientist and plant ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, New York.  He was awarded the PhD by the University of Illinois in 1977. He has directed the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research program since its inception in 1997.  His research focuses on the ecological structure of urban areas and on the temporal dynamics of vegetation, which has taken him to the primary forests of western Pennsylvania, the post-agricultural oldfields of New Jersey, and the riparian woodlands and savannas of Kruger National Park, South Africa.  He has edited or written books on disturbance and ecological patchiness, humans as components of ecosystems, conservation, the linkage of ecology with urban design, and the philosophy of ecology. He has served as President of the Ecological Society of America, and as a member of the Board of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.  Public service includes nine years of membership in the board of Defenders of Wildlife.

Integration of Social and Natural Sciences in the Baltimore Ecosystem Study

Charles Nilon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO USA The concept of an urban ecosystem as an integrated social and ecological system has origins from both the social and ecological sciences and a relatively long history in urban natural resource management.  The Baltimore Ecosystem Study, one of two Long Term Ecological Research projects funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, has used the Human Ecosystem Model as an organizing framework for understanding patterns and processes in urban ecosystems.  In my presentation I will focus on three examples of integration of social and natural sciences: the use of census data as predictors of ecological patterns in cities which in many ways is an application of social science theory to ecological studies; research on the relationship between socioeconomic patterns, human decision making and measures of biodiversity; and research on social inequality and its relationship to patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Charles Nilon is a Professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri.  He received his PhD in 1986 from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  Nilon’s research considers the impacts of urbanization on wildlife habitats and communities. Along with his students he focuses on the ecology of nearby nature – the areas within one mile of where people live and work.  Included in this research are projects ranging in location and degree of development from forest patches in Baltimore to back yards in Columbia, MO, and brownfield areas in inner city St. Louis. He is a co-investigator on the Baltimore Ecosystem Study The project in Baltimore and a similar one in Phoenix are the first two urban ecosystems included in the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research program.  He collaborates with Dr. Paige Warren (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) on a bird monitoring project that is part of the BES project.   Nilon’s research also considers the role of nature as part of an individual’s day-to-day environment, and environmental justice issues associated with access to nature.  Recently he has been a co-leader of a working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NEAS), Comparative Ecology of Cities: What Makes an Urban Biota “Urban”?  This working group will consider how comparative studies of cities can be used to understand patterns in urban flora and fauna.

Metadata of field biodiversity in Québec: Urban biodiversity

Mélanie-Louise Leblanc1, Danielle Dagenais2 , Stéphanie Pellerin3 and Guillaume Larocque1

1Centre de la Science de la Biodiversité du Québec, McGill University, Stewart Biology Building, Bureau W6 / 19, 1205, avenue du Docteur-Penfield, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3A 1B1
2 Chaire en paysage et environnement, École d’architecture de paysage, Faculté de l’aménagement, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3C 3J7.
3 Institut de recherche en biologie végétale, Université de Montréal et Jardin botanique de Montréal, 4101 Sherbrooke Est, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H1X 2B2.

Resulting from collaboration between the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science (QCBS) and NatureServe Canada, the Biodiversity Metadata Management System was created to provide a standardized framework for entering, searching and displaying metadata related to field studies of biodiversity in Quebec. In the summer of 2012, we solicited the participation of researchers based in academia and researchers from other research institutions such as governmental and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Furthermore, some metadata were extracted from publications related to field studies conducted in urban settings not available on the internet. Currently, the system has 131 datasets covering a wide time span from 1930 until now. The types of environments mostly sampled in the Montréal region are woodlots, aquatic habitats and urban settings while the most studied taxa are plants, birds and mammals. This is a system of unprecedented scale since it provides an easy access to different sources and types of metadata. In the long term, the Biodiversity Metadata Management System could become the focal point around which circulates information related to field studies in Québec. Mélanie-Louise Leblanc is a Research assistant at the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science associated with the Biodiversity Metadata Management System.

Urbanization effects on the composition, species and functional diversity of tree communities in eastern North America

Charles A. Nock1, Alain Paquette1, Matt Follett1, David J. Nowak2 and Christian Messier1

1Center for Forest Research, Université du Québec à Montréal, PO Box 8888, Centre-Ville Station, Montréal, QC H3C 3P8, Canada (
2Northern Research Station, c/o SUNY ESF, 5 Moon Library, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA

Urbanization influences plant diversity through mechanisms such as habitat transformation, altered environmental conditions and species introductions. However, despite the importance of tree diversity for ecosystem function and human well-being, its response to urbanization is poorly documented. Using forest and city inventory plots for seven urban centers in eastern North America, changes in tree diversity and composition along urban gradients were examined. Species and functional diversity changed in concert, decreasing substantially from forest to urban plots. However, taxonomic and functional diversity of species pools were similar, suggesting plot level diversity responded to impacts of urban infrastructure on tree density. Homogenization of tree species composition with urbanization was evident, and may have important effects on diversity at larger scales with urban expansion. We conclude that given a species pool that is both functionally and species diverse, increasing ecosystem services from urban trees will primarily depend on increasing tree density and/or tree cover.

Measuring the connectivity of natural areas in cities as an indicator in the City Biodiversity Index (CBI) using the effective mesh size (meff)

Adrienne Asgary and Jochen A.G. Jaeger Concordia University, Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., Suite H1255, Montréal, Québec, H3G 1M8, Canada (

Cities can contribute significantly to global efforts to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. The City Biodiversity Index (CBI) was developed as a tool to evaluate the state of biodiversity in cities and to provide insights for improving conservation efforts. It was proposed at the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by the Minister for National Development of Singapore, Mr. Mah Bow Tan, in May 2008. Three expert workshops in 2009, 2010 and 2011 were organized by the National Parks Board of Singapore and the Secretariat of the CBD in collaboration with the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity to develop the index. The CBI includes 23 indicators such as the proportion of natural areas in the city. We present the CBI with a focus on indicator 2, which measures the connectivity of natural areas in cities. Connectivity is “the degree to which the landscape facilitates or impedes movement among resource patches” and it “can be measured by the probability of movement between all points or resource patches in a landscape”. However, the previous method suggested for this indicator in the CBI was inconsistent. We propose an improvement that produces more reliable results without compromising practicality in the application of the metric. The new version applies the effective mesh size method, which is based on the probability that any two randomly chosen locations in the landscape are connected and not separated by any barriers. It includes both within-patch connectivity and between-patch connectivity. The method has been slightly modified in order to keep calculations simple. We applied the old and new versions of the connectivity metric to Montreal (in collaboration with the Ville de Montreal, Direction des grands parcs et du verdissement) and Lisbon. Montreal and Lisbon agreed to test the CBI, among various other cities. The improved method has been implemented in the CBI in collaboration with the National Parks Board of Singapore and the Secretariat of the CBD. It provides a better account of the state of connectivity of natural areas, which may have implications for cities’ conservation efforts. The CBI is supposed to be applied by many cities in the world for monitoring their efforts and successes in halting the rate of biodiversity loss. Jochen A.G. Jaeger received his PhD in Environmental Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich in Switzerland. In 2001, he went to Canada as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Lenore Fahrig in her Landscape Ecology Laboratory at Carleton University, Ottawa, funded by the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina. From 2003 to 2007 he was back in Zurich at the ETH as a research associate and was funded by the German Research Foundation DFG, the Swiss National Science Foundation SNF, the Swiss Federal Roads Authority, and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. His two last larger projects in Zurich were on the degree of landscape fragmentation and the degree of urban sprawl in Switzerland as indicators for the Swiss Monitoring System of Sustainable Development (MONET). He joined Concordia University in July 2007. In October 2010, he received the Dean’s 2009-2010 New Scholar Award for outstanding achievement by a tenure-track faculty member. His research team received the IENE Project Award 2011 for their project “Landscape Fragmentation in Europe” from the Infra Eco Network Europe in September 2011. In addition to his position at the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, he is an affiliated member of the Department of Biology. Research areas: Dr. Jaeger is working in the fields of landscape ecology, road ecology, the quantification and assessment of landscape structure and landscape change, land consumption through urban sprawl, ecological modelling, environmental indicators, impact assessment, and novel concepts of problem-oriented transdisciplinary research.

Abundance and diversity of pollinators in cities of Montreal and Quebec.

Nathalie Roullé1, Étienne Normandin2, Danielle Dagenais3, Chris Buddle4 and Valérie Fournier*2 *

1 Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).
2Département de phytologie, Faculté des sciences de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation, Pavillon de l’Envirotron, 2480, boulevard Hochelaga, Local 1227, Université Laval,  Québec.
3Chaire en paysage et environnement, École d’architecture de paysage, Faculté de l’aménagement, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3C 3J7.
4Department of Natural Resource Sciences McGill University, Macdonald Campus , 21,111 Lakeshore Road, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, H9X 3V9 Canada

Urbanization often causes the  fragmentation of habitats and biodiversity loss resulting in the disturbance of ecological functions such as pollinisation. In Quebec, no large scale study has yet evaluated the biodiversity and abundance of pollinators in urban environments.  Started in 2012, the 2 studies presented here aim to complete a full assessment of the diversity of indigenous bee and hoverfly species in various urban habitats. The first study targets community gardens, cemeteries and nature parks in Montreal and Quebec City.  Pit traps were installed at 25 sites in both cities. Two variables were selected in order to characterize both sites: the surface area of green space surrounding each site as well as heat Island maps. Our results will provide a detailed description of pollinator communities in the urban landscape of the two cities, as well as further define the effects of urbanization on pollinators. The second study focuses on green roofs in Montreal. We assessed the use of these spaces as stepping stones between other green spaces for pollinators. The pollinators were collected from the pit traps on 6 roofs. Characteristics such as roof height relative to the ground and substrate depths were measured  as well as percentage ground cover et the specific composition of flowering plants at the time of data collection. The analysis of entomological data and roof characteristics will allow for the identification of characteristics that favour the presence of pollinators on the roofs. Data from both studies will eventually be combined in a final analysis and interpretation. Nathalie Rouillé is currently finishing her doctoral studies in Biological Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal.    Nathalie began her studies in Biology at the University of Caen (France). She then obtained her license, a masters and a DEA in “Ecology, Ethology and Evolution” at the University of Rennes (France). Her research interests include ecology, landscape ecology, plant conservation and species evolution.

Norway maple, more productive and plastic than sugar maple; bad news for Montreal’s natural areas?

Alain Paquette*1,2 Bastien Fontaine3, Frank Berninger4, Karine Dubois3, Martin J. Lechowicz2,5, Christian Messier1,2, Juan M. Posada6, Fernando Valladares7 and Jacques Brisson2,3 *

1 Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences biologiques. Case postale 8888, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, QC, H3C 3P8 Canada
2 Center for Forest Research, P.O. Box 8888, Centre-ville Station, Montreal, QC H3C 3P8 Canada
3 Université de Montréal, Institut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV), 4101 rue Sherbrooke Est, Montreal, QC H1X 2B2 Canada
4 University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Forest Sciences, Helsinki, Finland
5 McGill University, Department of Biology, Montreal, QC Canada H3A 1B1
6 Universidad del Rosario, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Matemáticas, Carrera 24 No. 63C-69, Bogotá, D.C. 111221 Colombia
7 Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales CSIC, Madrid, Spain

Norway maple is associated with reduced regeneration of related native species, including sugar maple. Its impact on natural areas in Montreal, such as Mont-Royal, is already important. To identify traits conferring an advantage to Norway maple, we grew both species under simulated light regimes mimicking a closed forest versus gap disturbance. Dynamic shade-houses providing a succession of high-intensity direct-light events between longer periods of low, diffuse light were used to simulate the light regimes. We found that Norway maple had significantly greater photosynthetic capacity in both light regimes and grew larger in stem diameter than sugar maple. The differences in biomass allocation, stem diameter, height and maximum photosynthesis were especially important in the simulated gap where Norway maple continued extension growth during late fall. In the gap regime sugar maple had a significantly higher root:shoot ratio that could confer an advantage in the deepest shade of closed understory and under water stress or browsing pressure. Norway maple is especially invasive following canopy disturbance where the opposite low root:shoot ratio could confer a competitive advantage . Considering the effects of global change in extending the potential growing season, we anticipate that the invasiveness of Norway maple will increase in the future. Alain Paquette is a forest ecology researcher at the Hydro Quebec NSERC Centre and Chair on forest growth at l’UQAM. Having graduated with his masters and PhD in ecology, he has since been highly involved at the postdoctoral level in intensive sylviculture and functional zoning components for the TRIADE project and as part of a study on biodiversity productivity in forests. He is interested in the effects of biodiversity on forest ecosystems, notably in plantations and in urban and peri-urban settings. In 2010, his work on biodiversity was considered among the top ten discoveries in the magazine Quebec Science.

The role of carbohydrate reserves in the recovery of urban trees after perturbations

Jorge Andres Ramirez1, Juan Posada2, Tanya Handa1 and Christian Messier1

1 Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).
2 Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Rosario University-Colombia

Urban trees are among the most valuable components of urban areas due to their wide range of benefits. Nevertheless, trees growing in urban areas are subjected to a variety of stress factors, such as diseases, drought, repeated pruning, nutrient deficiencies, soil compaction, trenching, and mechanical damage that occur unpredictably, reducing their rates of photosynthesis, growth, and survival. Within natural forest systems, one important way for plants to deal with disturbance is to have carbohydrate reserves, mainly non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) that can be mobilized to enhance recovery and survival following periods of negative carbon balance. Nevertheless, there is still considerable uncertainty about how NSC contributes to the success of plants in response to single and multiple stress factors simultaneously. Here we present two ongoing studies on urban trees in Montreal to establish the functional role of NSC in overcoming negative carbon balance periods caused by stress factors (like pruning) and the relationships between NSC and plant biomechanics. In the first study, 20 adult trees subject to pruning for the maintenance of hydro-electric lines were studied and NSC reserves were measured. In the second study, 200 saplings were submitted to three stress factors alone or simultaneously (defoliation, root pruning and stem damage) and NSC reserves are being monitored. Our results will contribute to model and predict the capacity of urban trees to overcome different human-induced or naturally occurring stressors. Jorge Ramirez is a Forestry Engineer with a Masters in forestry and environmental conservation. He is currently a student of the doctorate in biology at UQAM.

Indirect effects of historic and recent urban development in the vicinity of Mont St.Hilaire on forest understory plant communities

Robin Beauséjour1, Tanya Handa2, Benjamin Gilbert3, Martin Lechowicz4  and Mark Vellend1

1 Département de Biologie, Université de Sherbrooke.
2 Département des Sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal.
3 Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto.,
4 Department of Biology, McGill University.

Despite the fact that herbaceous forest understory plants play an important role in maintaining the structure, function and biodiversity of forests, pressures on these communities remain understudied. After an interval of 9 to 40 years, we re-sampled the herbaceous plant communities of permanent plots of Mont St.Hilaire (MSH), an old-growth peri-urban forest of about 43 km2 and 40 km from Montreal. We assessed the importance of two potential drivers of change during this period: the invasion of exotic earthworms and the high density of deer. Because MSH is often considered one of the largest remnants of primary forest of the St. Lawrence Valley, the link between these drivers and urban development does not seem intuitive. However, since the 19th century, anthropogenic disturbance which took place on MSH is far from being marginal, culminating in major residential developments along half of its borders. Thus, by facilitating the spread of earthworms (fishing, agriculture, roads and trails) and influencing the density of deer (agricultural and residential development), urban peripheral sprawl may have played a key role in the degradation of MSH’s herbaceous understory plants. The interaction of these two drivers could explain the decline in species sensitive to grazing by deer observed during the last century and the last decade on MSH. After numerous years of work as a biology technicien, he completed his bachelors degree in the Biology : Learning by problem solving programme at UQAM. Robin Beauséjour is just beginning the second year of his Masters in plant ecology under the supervision of Tanya Handa (UQAM) and Mark Vellend ( U of Sherbrooke).

Understanding regional and local zooplanctonic community composition patterns

El-Amine Mimouni  and  Bernadette Pinel-Alloul Groupe de Recherche interuniversitaire en Limnologie et Environnement Aquatique, Département de Sciences biologiques, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3C 3J7. (; Biodiversity patterns and processes in urban aquatic ecosystems are poorly known and have yet to be properly described. Solid foundations on both the distribution of species and their responses to environmental stressors are needed. The overall objective of the study was to identify and explain sources of variation for zooplanktonic communities in urban waterbodies. During the month of July 2010, zooplankton (Crustacea and Rotifera) were sampled in 18 waterbodies of various types within the Island of Montréal. We described the spatial variation in biodiversity patterns between and within (littoral vs. pelagic) waterbodies based on changes in species composition. The relative influence of water quality, land use and food web interactions on cladoceran community were evaluated. Total species richness accounted for 81 taxa (46 Rotifera, 26 Cladocera, 9 Copepoda) and local species richness ranged from 6 to 36 species among waterbodies. Within waterbodies, biodiversity proved to be highly variable, with local species richness being up to 2.5 times the average sample species richness. The average sample could underestimate species richness by up to 18 species. Both among crustacean and rotiferan communities, littoral species proved to be important contributors to diversity. Multivariate ANOVA (MANOVA) revealed that an interaction was present between site identity and sampling zone, implying that the pelagic-littoral relationship for urban waterbodies is more complex than once thought. Variation partitioning revealed that most of the variation is driven by between-site differences, but that an important part of it can also be found within sites. Finally, we show that zooplanktonic communities are shaped by both local variables such as phytoplankton quantity/quality or fish presence and more landscape variables such as land usage around the waterbody or waterbody management procedures. As such, emphasis should be put on waterbody management such as water quality and pond emptying in order to preserve this biodiversity.

Pteridophyte Diversity in Urban Forests of the Montreal Archipelago

Alexandre Bergeron and Stéphanie Pellerin Institut de recherche en biologie végétale, Université de Montréal et Jardin botanique de Montréal, 4101 Sherbrooke Est, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H1X 2B2. ( The maintenance of biodiversity in urban forests is a challenge due to the increased demand for recreational activities. To better preserve the diversity of indigenous plants and animals in these ecosystems it is therefore essential to understand the environmental factors that can lead to changes in their composition. The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship between the pteridophyte richness in urban forests and landscape factors such as forest patch size, isolation, surrounding disturbances and heat island. Pteridophytes were sampled in 82 forest patches of the Montreal region (Quebec, Canada). Landscape variables were determined through the use of satellite images, land use maps and field surveys. Data were analyzed using Principal Coordinates of Neighbour Matrices analysis (PCNM), regression models and multivariate techniques. In total, 38 pteridophyte species were identified in the 82 forests sampled. The species-area model was the model that best fit our study, with 60% of the variation in the pteridophyte species richness explained by the area of the patch.  The regression model performed on selected land use variables (proportion of water bodies, residential areas and heat islands in 500m buffer area around the patch), explained 28% of the pteridophyte richness variation. Finally, according to variation partitioning analysis, the majority of the pteridophyte richness variation explained at the patch scale was related to patch size (38.5 %) compared to 6.8% for land uses, with 21.3% of variations shared by the two sets of variables. Alexandre Bergeron is a Biologist who is currently undertaking his PhD at the Institute for research in plant biology under the supervision of Stéphanie Pellerin (IRBV) and Claude Lavoie (Laval U). His PhD work seeks to further our understanding of the biogeography of urban forests with a functionnal and phylogenetic approach.