What we do

 

Biodiversity Science

Traditional approaches may not be enough to stem and resolve the biodiversity crisis. Since biodiversity change comes from the growing influence of humans on their environment, both natural and social science research must be combined.
Biodiversity science is therefore a multidisciplinary field that uses tools and theories from different fields such as molecular biology, taxonomy, genetics, traditional knowledge, political science, eco-informatics, economics and ecology.

QCBS research showcase

The Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory

The Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory is a collaboration between five Canadian researchers in biodiversity and remote sensing science. Its main objective will be to study and understand the changes in plant biodiversity at a Canada wide scale using the emerging spectranomics approach. CABO will use high precision spectranomics to measure the spectral signatures of Canadian plants at several spatial scale and coming from different ecosystems, while using standardized protocols. This way, CABO will build a large spectral database of Canadian plants and thus revolutionize the way biodiversity data are acquired in Canada and throughout the world. CABO will reinforce other international initiatives in spectranomics and will position Canada as the world leader in biodiversity science and conservation. The funding for CABO is NSERC’s fourth Discovery Frontiers award, valued at $4 million over 4 years.

Funding source: NSERC Discovery Frontiers award

Anne Bruneau, Etienne Laliberté, Mark Vellend

 

Québec Ecosystem Observatory

Towards an automated, open and transparent tracking system

Actual ecological knowledge on ecosystems are scarce, particularly for northern ecosystems, and this lack of knowledge limits the anticipation of global change consequences. It is to remedy this alarming problem that the Québec Ecosystem Observatory is being set up. In concrete terms, this observatory will enhance the ecological data already available, building on already existing initiatives such as Canadensys, and harmonize the collecting of those to come. The Observatory intends to set up an open informatics structure composed of an integrated suite of tools for the synthesis and communication of the state of our ecosystems in Québec. This suite will allow, for example, a compilation of real-time data for the automated production of a biodiversity atlas of Québec or the automation of environmental impact assessment pre-projects. The Observatory is also mandated to contribute to the formation and developments of new expertise in biodiversity science. Québec Ecosystem Observatory currently federates actors of various circles (academic, governmental, industrial, non-governmental) and can count on the implication of 4 FRQNT strategic clusters (CSBQ, CEN, Québec-Ocean, GRIL) to achieve its goals.

Funding source: NSERC, QCBS

Dominique Gravel, Timothée Poisot, Steve Vissault

 

Quebec's launch of the Demain la forêt program

Presented by the Foundation Cowboys Fringants, the new Demain la forêt Program, which will be expanded across Quebec, was officially launched this April in the presence of its three long-standing partners, le Jour de la Terre, the David Suzuki Foundation and La Tribu. This major program will have the main objectives of planting resilient forests, educating and mobilizing the general public, supporting research and identifying innovative practices in terms of reforestation, conferring the efforts of all stakeholders and to make these actions shine through the arts.

Shown in photo: Mme Suzanne Verreault, élue responsable de l'environnement, Ville de Québec M. Jérôme Dupras, Professeur UQO, Président de la Fondation Cowboys Fringants M. Karel Mayrand, directeur, Fondation David Suzuki M. Michel St-Germain, Viridis Environnement Mme Marie-Annick Lépine, membre des Cowboys Fringants M. Jean-François Pauzé, membre des Cowboys Fringants M. Martin Bureau, Artiste peintre M. Karl Tremblay, membre des Cowboys Fringants Mme Sophie Lavallée, Professeure Université Laval Mme Julie Lafortune, directrice exécutive, Jour de la Terre M. Renaud Lapierre, Viridis Environnement M. Régis Labaume, Maire, Ville de Québec

Jérôme Dupras, Sophie Lavallée

 

The second QCBS R symposium

On May 10th and 11th, the second QCBS R symposium was held at the Biological Station of the Laurentians. These two days were an opportunity for the 33 students to share their knowledge of biodiversity analysis in R, through 5 different workshops. This conference was a success and we are already looking forward to organizing next year! All workshop materials are available on the symposium wiki page.

Ehab Abouheif, Léa Blondel, Marie-Hélène Brice

 

Indirect effects of hunting regulation on female brown bear behaviour

Incredible media attention worldwide

A new paper from Fanie Pelletier laboratory, published at the end of March in Nature Communication, has received an incredible media attention. Only a week after its release, it shows an Altmetric Attention Score of more than 1250 points, reaching the top 5% of scores obtained to date and the 99e percentile for papers of the same age. These works have received to date a media coverage more than 150 times worldwide, and this number is still increasing. The article, Hunting regulation favors slow life histories in a large carnivore, reports the works of the doctorate student Joanie Van de Walle, and shows the indirect effects of hunting on selection and demographic processes. These works were done on a brow bear population in Sweden, where the regulation protects females with cubs from hunting. Females can keep their young for 1.5 or 2.5 years, thus favoring the survival of females that keep their young for longer periods, and their young too. The loss of reproductive opportunity for females that keep their cubs for longer periods is compensated by a gain in survival, particularly when hunting pressure is high.

Funding source: FRQNT, NSERC, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management, Austrian Science Fund, Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management.

Fanie Pelletier, Joanie Van de Walle

 

A long research tradition at the Montreal Botanical Garden

During the opening of the new multifunctional room of the Institut de Recherche en Biologie Végétale (IRBV), Professor Luc Brouillet presented the long history of this collaboration between the city of Montreal and the Université de Montréal. In 1920, Brother Marie-Victorin created the Institut Botanique of the Université de Montréal, rebranded IRBV during its move to the Montreal Botanical Garden in 1939. The institute currently hosts more than 200 researchers, students and support staff, including 11 members of the QCBS. Inaugurated in 2011, the Biodiversity Centre houses the major Quebec collections of plants, insects and fungi, in addition to developing innovative research and raising public awareness of biodiversity conservation.

Jacques Brisson, Jacques Brodeur, Luc Brouillet, Anne Bruneau, Pierre-Luc Chagnon, Alain Cuerrier, Mohamed Hijri, Simon Joly, Etienne Laliberté, Stéphanie Pellerin, Marc St-Arnaud

 

Our house is burning!

Traditional media still blind to biodiversity loss?

The loss of biodiversity (animals and plants species) will continue unabated with increasing risk of dramatic shifts in ecosystems functioning and human well-being. This environmental issue is of special concern and should therefore reach the public. We wanted to compare media coverage of biodiversity with climate change, another major environmental issue. Our study, jointly conducted by researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski, Laval University and Sherbrooke University in press in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution compared scientific literature and press articles addressing climate change and biodiversity between 1991 and 2016. Time series analyses revealed that media coverage of climate change was up to eight times higher compared to biodiversity. Such discrepancy could not be explained by different scientific productivity or research funding between the two issues. The study finally discussed several initiatives that scientists could undertake to better communicate major discoveries to the public and policy makers. A greater public awareness regarding this issue would help implementing new policies to mitigate the impacts of biodiversity loss.

Funding source: QCBS

Dominique Berteaux, Joël Bêty, Dominique Gravel, Nicolas Casajus, Kevin Cazelles, Clément Chevallier, Marion Chevrinais, Claire Jacquet, Pierre Legagneux, Fanny Noisette, Pascale Ropars, Steve Vissault

 

Habitat enhancements to support pollinators in apple production

Increasing biodiversity and winter survival of bumblebees for better yields

Potential causes of the current native pollinator decline observed around the world include pesticide uses, lost of floral diversity and landscape simplification. In apple production, apple trees blossom soon in spring, too early for many native pollinator species, and orchards often represent undiversified floral landscapes, two characteristics limiting their attractiveness for pollinators. Actually, much of the pollination is done by the use of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). But this work could be done by native pollinators such as bumblebees Bombus spp., more efficient than honey bees, and already working early in spring, but generally rare in orchards because of the reduced floral diversity. This three-year-project, in collaboration with apple producers from Montérégie and Estrie, was settled last spring by Amélie Gervais, a PhD student co-supervised by Valérie Fournier and Marc Bélisle. This study will quantify the impacts of flower planting - such as windbreaks, riparian strips and flowerbeds - on the diversity of native bumblebees and on their winter survival. Ultimately, this project will evaluate the biological and economic impacts of habitat enhancements to support pollinators in apple production.

Funding source: MAPAQ

Valérie Fournier, Amélie Gervais

 

Belowground perspectives and spatiotemporal evolution of the distribution of maple ecosystems in Quebec

Soil is a complex system comprised of a large number of belowground interactions between the living and non-living elements. Among these interactions, many plants and fungi have developed a close relationship that can be beneficial to both partners. The aim of this project is therefore to better understand the interactions between plants and their fungal partners in sugar maple ecosystems found in southern Quebec. Subsequently, a field experiment will allow us to highlight the effect of plants-fungi associations on organic matter decomposition. Finally, in the context of climate change, we will attempt to determine the extent to which the expected migration of trees such as maple from temperate to boreal forests will be impacted by microbes in boreal soils. As a whole, this project aims to improve our understanding of the role of underground interactions in the functioning of ecosystems.

Funding source: NSERC, QCBS, FRQNT

Etienne Laliberté, Mark Vellend, Alexis Carteron

 

The role of private land conservation in maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity

Protected areas such as national or provincial parks help to conserve ecosystems and their biodiversity. However, few studies have evaluated the effect of land conservation in the private sector in maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity. In recent years, the Réseau de Milieux Naturels Protégés (www.RMNnat.org) has developed a unique, yet still underexploited database, georeferencing most of the protected areas on private lands in Quebec. For its part, the Canadensys network has a large open database of species occurrence, and the Quebec Natural Heritage Data Center (CDPNQ) can provide data on endangered, vulnerable or potentially designated species. By coupling data on Quebec flora from Canadensys and the CDPNQ to data on protected areas from the RMN, we wish to test the effect of private land conservation on several components of biodiversity (eg, alpha and beta biodiversity) through spatial and statistical analyzes.

Funding source: QCBS, Réseau de milieux naturels protégés (RMN), Canadensys

Anne Bruneau, Claude Lavoie, Stéphanie Pellerin, Carole Sinou

 

Northern citizens monitor local biodiversity

Through adapted online platform

Northern communities face many challenges associated with climate change. Animal species, their abundance and timing of emergence/arrival are also changing rapidly. The Northern Biodiversity Project is dedicated to documenting how climate change may impact the animal (and plant) communities of the tundra by inviting Northern citizens to monitor the presence of species they observe on an adapted and flexible online platform resulting from a partnership between the QCBS and the CEN. http://northernbiodiversity.ca

Funding source: QCBS, CEN

François Vézina, Pierre Legagneux

 

Eastern chipmunks of the Sutton Mountains region

A long-term study to better understand factors influencing the maintenance of phenotypic diversity

Located in the middle of Eastern Townships, the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) study site livens up each spring for more than a decade now: a team is working to collect essential data to better understand the importance of genetic and environmental factors on the maintenance of phenotypic variability. Chipmunks are individually marked with ear tags to follow them across time and to collect repeated morphological, physiological and behavioural measurements. Genetic analysis also allowed the determination of their reproductive success and the establishment of their pedigree, thus adding a genetic component to the observed phenotypic diversity. Finally, as chipmunks are sensible to the fluctuation of resources within their environment, the annual variation in the food availability, influenced by mast trees, is also quantified. This huge sampling effort has been rewarded by the quality of the research that it is producing.

Funding source: NSERC, FRQNT

Patrick Bergeron, Dany Garant, Fanie Pelletier, Denis Réale

 

Analysis of the connectivity needed to ensure the survival of the Western Chorus Frog.

The purpose of this one year project is to improve the understanding of the threats identified in the Recovery Strategy for the Western Chorus Frog especially urban sprawl, agricultural intensification in relation to the need to maintain connectivity between the metapopulations in the Montérégie Region. This understanding is based upon analyzing connectivity within and between metapopulations, identifying areas of importance for maintaining connectivity.

Funding source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

Andrew Gonzalez

 

Adaptation of tropical legumes of the genus Erythrina to pollinators

In angiosperms, flowers exhibit an incredible phenotypic diversity. Their form varries tremendously from one species to another and often reflects the diversity of pollinators; plants tend to adapt in order to maximize the transfer of pollen. We studied the tropical genus Erythrina, that belongs to the legume family, as a model to better understand the evolution of floral form in response to the selection pressures of pollinators. This genus contains 131 species pollinated mainly by birds (hummingbirds and passerines) and bees. Pollination by bees and passerines, considered as the ancestral state, is associated with open flowers, while pollination by hummingbirds has likely evolved more recently. In this project, the shape of the flowers was characterized using geomorphometrics of herbarium specimens, and their evolution was inferred with a molecular phylogeny. Our results show that pollination by hummingbirds has emerged independently several times during evolution, and is accompanied by a series of similar adaptations, such as tubular flowers. This suggests that hummingbirds exert a strong selection pressure, and that the phenotype tends to converge towards a very specific floral form.

Funding source: NSERC, Mutua Madrileña Fund (Madrid, Spain)

Anne Bruneau, Simon Joly, Gonzalo Bilbao Gómez-Martino

 

Traditional Animal Foods of Indigenous Peoples of Northern North America

A great free online resource

This web publication aims to describe and reference the published literature on traditional animal foods known and used by Indigenous Peoples of northern North America. It features information on the locations of the cultures whose peoples have used, and often continue to use, these foods. The publication focuses on Canada, Alaska, Greenland and the northern United States of America, but many of the animal species presented here also occur in the northern latitudes of Europe and Asia. In sum, data for 527 species of animals is presented, drawing information from over 490 ethnographic sources, an additional 91 unique sources reporting nutritional information, and 357 sources containing basic biological information.

Funding source: CINE, Grid Arendal

Murray Humphries

 

Biodiversity responses to hydroelectric reservoir management

Featured in Canal Savoir

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.

Irene Gregory-Eaves, Christian Nozais, Chris Solomon

 

The LEAP project

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

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.

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.

Sophie Calmé

 

Sex determination in freshwater mussels

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

 

Every year, QCBS researchers and students develop new collaborations, co-supervise new students, write papers in prestigious peer-reviewed journals and explore new research topics. The QCBS research, collaboration and training activity dashboard is an interactive tool aiming to easily explore the dynamics of the QCBS researchers scientific production and training. It provides graphically rich summaries of our network, as it is today and as it evolves through time. Happy exploring!