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Research projects

The CEN’s strategic cluster, supported by the FQRNT, benefits from a leverage effect that allows it to generate a synergy between experts from different fields and institutions, resulting in numerous original and transdisciplinary research projects.

North-South Gradient

(2014 - )

Project holder: Joël Bêty

The nine CEN field stations and 110 environmental monitoring stations span a remarkable gradient of climate regimes and ecozones over 3500 km, from high boreal forest (Radisson) to forest and shrub tundra (W-K, Umiujaq, Clearwater Lake, Boniface), true tundra (Salluit, Nettilling Lake) and polar desert (Bylot Island, Ward Hunt Island). This integrative project aims to facilitate access to these sites and to coordinate the collection of environmental observations along this 30 degree latitudinal gradient, to better understand and predict the impact of environmental change on northern geo-ecosystems.

The approaches in the North-South Gradient project will include:

Module 1. Synthesis and analysis of existing physical and biological data to define the north-south gradients of change.

Module 2. Development of a sampling strategy to detect change along the latitudinal gradient including formulation and application of standard protocols.

Module 3. Application of new observation technologies including automated and wireless networks.

Module 4. Integration of the gradient data into spatial models to project future change.



(2014 - )

Project holder: Najat Bhiry

Hudsonia 21 (Hudsonie21) aims to achieve an integrated analysis of the nature and consequences of socio-economic and environmental change during the 21st century in the eastern Hudson Bay region, from James Bay to the northern limit of the forest-tundra biome. The project builds on the classic studies undertaken by CEN researchers during the 1960s in the Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik (W-K) region. This region is now experiencing rapid climate change with associated effects on landscapes such as permafrost thaw, and on ecosystems such as a northward expansion of trees and shrubs. Animal species that are new to the region are becoming increasingly prevalent, notably musk ox and moose, and the area is also experiencing rapid development, with Government of Québec intentions to connect W-K by road to the South, and to develop a deep water port. The CEN station at W-K will be the hub for these activities, with secondary locations at the CEN stations at Radisson, Umiujaq, Clearwater Lake and Boniface.

Module 1. Vegetation ecology of the high boreal forest and forest tundra

Module 2. Plant diversity and landscape dynamics of wetlands

Module 3. Freshwater ecosystems on permafrost landscapes in transition

Module 4. Bathymetry, limnology and geochemistry of an ancient crater lake: Lac à l’eau claire

Module 5. Changing freshwater resources of the Hudson Bay region

Module 6. Snow-vegetation interactions and feedback processes

Module 7. Animal diversity and change: insects, bird and mammals


Observatoire québécois de la biodiversité

(2014 - )

Current ecological knowledge of ecosystems is very limited, particularly in northern ecosystems, and this lack of knowledge limits the anticipation of the consequences of global change. The Observatoire des écosystèmes du Québec was created to respond to this lack of knowledge and scientific understanding of global issues related to ecosystems and biodivserty. In concrete terms, this observatory will make it possible to enhance the value of the ecological data already available, building on existing initiatives such as Canadensys, and to harmonize the collection of future ones. The Observatory intends to set up an open computer structure composed of a suite of integrated tools allowing the synthesis and communication of the state of Quebec ecosystems. This suite will allow, for example, a compilation of real-time data for the automated production of a Quebec biodiversity atlas and the automation of preliminary environmental impact assessment projects. The Observatory also aims to contribute to the training and development of new expertise in biodiversity science. The Observatoire des écosystèmes du Québec currently brings together stakeholders from various sectors (academia, government, industry, non-government) and is supported by four strategic cluster programs funded by the FRQNT (QCBS, CEN, Québec-Océan, GRIL) to achieve its objectives.


International Human-Environment Observatory Nunavik

(2013 - )

The project OHMI aims to study the quality of life in a northern community and the local changes in ecosystems and biodiversity in this region. The multi- and inter-disciplinary research will focus in particular on environmental and social-economic aspects, which do not specifically fall within the scope of current programs. These aspects will be studied from complementary perspectives: wildlife, resources, health, housing, employment, environmental safety. The site selected is Inuit village of Kangiqsujuaq in Nunavik. This village has around 700 inhabitants, is situated close to a globally major nickel mine (the Raglan mine operated by Glencore; 1.3 million tonnes produced each year); is close to Pingualuit National Park, and is the site of a proposed deep-water port project the Government of Québec plan for development.


Avativut, Science in Nunavik, learning in relation to the territory

(2012 - )


Caribou Ungava, on migratory caribou of the Québec-Labrador Peninsula

(2009 - )


Projet Salluit, research on permafrost in the Salluit region, Nunavik

(2002 - )


Arctic rodent monitoring in North America

(1992 - )

Arctic rodents, such as lemmings and voles, are an important component of the tundra ecosystem. They are prey to many predators, both avian (owls, hawks, jaegers, falcons, gulls) and terrestrial (foxes, wolves and weasels). Populations of lemmings and voles are known to follow 3 to 5-year abundance cycles in many areas. Factors like food limitation, predation and inter-specific competition have been suggested to explain these cyclic fluctuations. In some areas, such as eastern Greenland and some parts of Scandinavia, arctic rodent cycles have been disrupted, possibly due to changes in snow cover triggered by climate change. The collapse of arctic rodent populations could have major effects on the entire tundra food web. Further research is needed to fully understand the interactions between these important prey species, their predators and climate change in the Arctic.

Arctic rodents have been identified as a key component to monitor by the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program, an initiative of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, in order to document the general health of the tundra arctic esosystem (Christensen et al. 2013 ). In a recent review, Ehrich et al. (in preparation) identified 49 sites across the circumpolar tundra biome where lemming populations have been monitored in recent years, including 15 in North America. We here present the sites where arctic rodents are monitored in the tundra biome of North America, as well as some advices on how to implement such monitoring programs and archive the data.


Projet Île Bylot, Ecological Studies and Environmental Monitoring at Bylot Island

(1988 - )




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