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The Gulf of St. Lawrence at the Biodôme

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Amblyraja radiata
Photo: Biodôme de Montréal (Jesse Bouffard)
Thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata)

The majestic river that is the St. Lawrence is full of hidden treasures. It is a popular travel destination in Quebec, but do we really know it all that well? The Montréal Biodôme offers a unique opportunity to explore the richness of the Gulf of St. Lawrence more closely—an amazing outing in the heart of downtown Montreal!

The Biodôme’s fascinating marine animals

The trail through this Quebec landscape offers a unique look at underwater life. Hundreds of fish of some fifteen species can be observed at leisure, including sturgeon, cod, striped bass, salmon and even rays! So when it's time to find a fun outing for the kids on a rainy day, the Montréal Biodôme is the place to be!

By resurfacing above underwater life, the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem at the Montréal Biodôme awakens the senses. Visitors' nostrils are quickly titillated by the salty air, their ears pick up the cry of a seagull, and a certain freshness is palpable, even in summer. The illusion is almost perfect: it feels like you’re somewhere on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, close to this true inland sea.

In addition to its large basin, this ecosystem also has several distinct habitats. There is a coastal marsh, steep cliffs, and a rocky shoreline with invertebrates living at the bottom.

It is here that young and old alike happily discover starfish, anemones, sea cucumbers, waved whelks, sea urchins and crabs. An ideal activity for children and adults alike!

In this setting reminiscent of the North Shore or the Gaspé Peninsula, seagulls, guillemots and terns come and go between the coastal marsh and the steep cliff faces. Common juniper and jack pine grow in the rock crevices. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem, you can recognize plants that grow between the marine and terrestrial environments, such as the sharp-petalled iris, Scotch lovage (or sea lovable) and sand ryegrass (sea lyme grass). From the top of the footbridge and from the mezzanine, the view of this landscape is even more striking.

Technical prowess behind the scenes

The large basin of the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem contains 2.5 million litres of "seawater" produced on site. The water in this giant basin is maintained at a temperature of 10°C and a salinity of 24 grams of salt per litre of water. A water filtration system and divers who clean the pool several times a week keep all this water clean. Filtration cleaning is carried out in three continuous stages: mechanical filtration (sand filters), biological filtration and ozone purification.

Under the expert eye of the Biodôme’s researchers

In the ecosystem of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, well hidden behind walls, several basins allow the Montréal Biodôme team to get close to species that are sometimes hard to observe in nature. This proximity has allowed them to conduct research on the spotted wolffish, for example—a species of fish found in the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec. They have also studied the effects of various environmental changes on these fish, such as the level of oxygen in the water and the availability of shelter.

A few facts and figures

  • The Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem as presented at the Montréal Biodôme occupies an area of approximately 1,600 sq. m.
  • Ambient air is maintained at a much milder temperature than the natural environment: in summer, 20°C during the day and 14°C at night; in winter, 10°C during the day and 6°C at night.
  • Relative humidity is much higher in summer (60-70%) than in winter (23-30%).
  • In this ecosystem, rocks mimic granite to recreate a landscape that was shaped by ice and millions of successive freezes and thaws.

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