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Sustainable development

The stress response of Anarhichas lupus is being evaluated
Photo: Biodôme

Protection of habitats, conservation of biodiversity and adopting responsible behaviour towards nature to promote sustainable development

Evaluating stress response of Anarhichas minor and A. lupus in terms of shelter availability 

Studies in progress, conducted in partnership with the New England Aquarium in Boston, involve the biological effects of “exclusion zones” in areas around natural gas terminals off the coast of New England. Prohibiting commercial and recreational fishing in these zones should rehabilitate benthic habitats ravaged by decades of bottom trawl fishing. It is commonly accepted that exposure to chronic stress can have a negative impact on the health and physiology of marine organisms. An omnipresent stress factor in marine environments under exploitation is the destruction of species’ habitats, a by-product of human activities like natural gas terminals and fishing. In theory, years of bottom trawling and degradation of the benthic habitat around natural gas terminals may have resulted in chronic stress for species that live in that environment, due in large part to the suppression or destruction of their natural refuges – particularly for fish and more sedentary invertebrate species that are less apt to actively seek out other viable habitats. In the study, a series of controlled experimental conditions will be simulated in order to acquire understanding of the physiological effects that occur when shelters are added or taken away. The objective of this study is to compare the chemical properties of blood over a period of time as an indicator of the physiological state of the spotted wolfish and Atlantic wolfish, and in relation to a series of changing conditions involving the presence or absence of a shelter or habitat.

Development of a monitoring program for five endangered species at the Oka National Park

For several years now, managers of protected areas have faced a great challenge: how to respond to an increased number of visitors while fulfilling their conservation objectives, which are at the very origin of the creations of these parks. The Oka National Park, located near the greater Montréal area and known for its beautiful beach, is no exception. Located in southern Québec, with mild temperatures, the park is home to exceptional biodiversity. Some 14 plant groups and 678 vascular plants were identified during a recent flora inventory, including 35 rare species. This exceptional wealth clearly illustrates the fundamental role that Oka Park plays in the conservation of rare plants in Québec. This project aims to identify a representative sample of rare plants at the park in order to create a monitoring program to document their evolution and ensure their conservation.

Four plant groups of interest in the park must be represented:

  1. White pine and red oak
  2. Open sandy areas and high shorelines 
  3. Sugar maple and butternut hickory
  4. Silver maple

This project, undertaken in close collaboration with park authorities, is being adapted to the needs and capacity of current monitoring conducted within this protected area.

Poor land use, poor health

A project concerning sustainable land use to prevent ill human health for small-scale farming communities of the humid tropics.

This program aims at reducing the gravity of two emergent and synergistic health issues in small scale farming populations of the Amazon: mercury exposure through contaminated fish consumption and transmission of Chagas disease through contact with triatomines, insect carriers of a deadly protozoan. Recent studies indicate that both hazards, which can severely and insidiously affect immune, neurologic and cardiac functions, appear to be directly linked to the rapid and generalized degradation of the environment, in particular to the ever-increasing “slash and burn” practices of the tropical rain forest.

The PLUPH program, acronym for poor land use – poor health, will contribute to primary health prevention by implementing and testing sound land-uses in typical pilot communities of the Tapajos. The program is being carried out by an interdisciplinary team, composed of university researchers from Brazil and Canada, representatives of the Brazilian government in agro-development, colonization practices and public health, as well as opinion leaders of local communities.

From a local to a regional scale

Participatory research that aims at understanding the sources, circulation and impact of mercury in the Brazilian Amazon to create solutions adapted to the diversity of ecosystems and populations.

This is the third phase of a project in the Tapajos region of the Brazilian Amazon. Since it was demonstrated that the cultural practices of the region were the main sources of mercury contamination, this project proposed a dietary modification for local inhabitants promoting the consumption of herbivore fish that are not as contaminated as carnivore fish. Cultural practices were studied in order to understand the social, economic and environmental dynamics in the context of mercury contamination.

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