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1.1 Network Analysis of Umbrella and Indicator Species: Assessing the Integrity of Northern Ecosystems

Principal investigator

Daniel Fortin


Antoine Allard, Louis J. Dubé, Frédéric Maps, Louis-Paul Rivest

Collaborators outside U. Laval

Marcel Darveau (Ducks Unlimited), Mark Hebblewhite (Montana, USA), Christian Hébert (Natural Resources Canada)

Project summary

Biodiversity is central to ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services. Umbrella species can be used to simplify biodiversity conservation, as their protection results in the simultaneous protection of multiple co-occurring species over large areas. The forest-dwelling caribou is an umbrella species for boreal biodiversity that is also protected by law in Canada. Caribou conservation is already impacting the industrial development in northern ecosystems, and the situation may intensify as new areas become available for industrial exploitation following climate change. An effective contribution of caribou management to biodiversity preservation requires the ability to predict species diversity in changing environments and over large areas. Rapid climate changes in northern ecosystems will alter local conditions such that a given location can become more suitable to a different assemblage of species in a near future.

Our project aims at answering pressing management issues through a better understanding of the complexity, both structural and functional, of northern environments under climate change. By combining observations along latitudinal gradients and a suite of innovative numerical and complex network analysis methods, we will reveal the mechanisms underpinning the transition between ecosystems along the varying environmental conditions. We will develop tools to assess the integrity of northern ecosystems, and to anticipate, monitor, and eventually preserve biodiversity, the umbrella species, and their associated ecosystem services (e.g., timber supply, aesthetics, and cultural values) despite global changes. Our research outcomes can be used to identify suitable targets for ecosystem restoration and for the needs of local communities regarding sustained supply of ecosystem services (e.g., timber harvest, pollination), given ongoing environmental changes and anthropic pressure.