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The boreal biome of Quebec

The boreal biome 

The biome of the boreal forest, also called taiga, is the largest terrestrial biome in the world. It covers most of the northern America and Eurasia.


In Quebec, the boreal zone is located north of the deciduous forest and south of the arctic tundra. It covers about 2/3 of Quebec and represents almost 3/4 of all forests of the province.


Source: CEF

The boreal biome in Québec : flora and fauna

The boreal forest is dominated by coniferous tree species, like the black (Picea mariana) and the white (Picea glauca) spruces, the balsam fir (Abies balsamea), the larch (Larix laricina), and some deciduous species such as the white birch (Betula alba), the balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) and the aspen (Populus tremuloides(MRNF). The boreal forest covers different bioclimatic domains : balsam fir-white birch, spruce-moss, spruce-lichen and forest tundra.
Is also found, in northern Quebec, a large diversity in mammals such as the black bear (Ursus americanus), the moose (Alces alces), the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the grey wolf (Canis lupus), the beaver (Castor canadensis), the caribou (or reindeer) (Rangifer tarandus), the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), the american mink (Mustela vison), the coyote (Canis latrans), the lynx (Lynx canadensis) etc. Despite the harshness of the boreal weather, many bird species also live in the area, like the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), the pileated woodpecker(Dryocopus pileatus), the great grey owl (Strix nebulosa), the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and several other species of falcons, owls and ducks. Many of them are migratory birds.

Population and economy

In Quebec, the boreal area includes the regions of Abitibi-Teminscamingue, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Côte-Nord as well as Nord-du-Québec. In these regions, the mining industry, agriculture and forestrial exploitation are the main economic activities. However, only 7% of Quebec population live in the boreal region of the province. It is also in the northern part of Quebec that most of the first nations people are, like the Crees, the Innus, the Algonquins and the Inuits (map). In the boreal region of Quebec, only 6,04% of the territory is protected and many human activities threaten the different ecosystems.

The boreal aquatic ecosystem

Hydrographic network

10 000 years ago, during the last ice age, the canadian continent was completely covered with ice. The retreat of the ice eroded the Canadian shield and created a complex hydrographic network composed of many lakes, rivers and streams. This fresh water network is now one of the major natural ressource of the province forming 3% of the world fresh water reserve while the population of Quebec only represents 0,1% of the world population. About 33% of the boreal region is covered by lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, wetlands, etc.

The rivers

Rivers are channels that transport water from terrestrial to aquatic environments and within the different bodies of water. From small streams to large rivers, the size of bodies of water and the amount of water they carry varies a lot. In the boreal region of Quebec, there are about 900,000 streams and 2,000 rivers that cover 45,000 km2 or about 1/3 of the total area of all bodies of water (Teodoru et al. 2009).



The wetlands

Wetlands are found at the interface of terrestrial and aquatic environments and are composed of marshes, ponds, peatlands, flooded areas and other shallow or temporary bodies of water. For this last reason, it is difficult to successfully estimate their abundance and density in Quebec, but their importance in the carbon cycle and for the biodiversity is known. These ecotones indeed represent keys environment and are caracterized by an intense biological activity.


The lakes

Lakes are generally formed when water, coming from streams, rivers or directly from water running from the watershed, run into an obstacle i.e. a dam or others. The accumulation of water can spread over several to hundreds of square kilometres, creating a mosaic of lakes of different shapes and sizes in the landscape. It is estimated that around 1,2 millions of lakes are located in the boreal region of Quebec covering 90,000 km2, or about 2/3 of the area of the boreal hydrographic network (Teodoru et al. 2009).



Biodiversity and food webFoodWeb

The aquatic ecosystems represent a rich, productive and diversified environment. Algaes and aquatic plants transform solar energy and the carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in water in an energy source that is assimilable to aquatic animals. They are therefore at the bottom of the food chain. The large diversity of benthic, pelagic and epiphytic algaes sustain the zooplankton populations that are at the base of the diet for many fish species. Often forgotten, bacterias usually form more then half the biomass of an aquatic ecosystem and are an immportant part in the recycling of carbon biomass and nutrients, as well to energy transfer to higher trophic networks.

In fact, the total biomass is becoming less and less important as the we go up the food chain, like in a pyramid pattern. Micro-organisms like bacterias, protists and algaes, even if they are invisible to naked eye, form the vast majority of the carbon biomass in rivers and lakes while the total biomass is exponentially decreasing when changing to a higher level in the trophic chain (zooplankton to fish). At each of these levels, the organisms breath and therefore reject a large quantity of carbon dioxyde (CO2) in the water.

The carbon cycle in boreal aquatic ecosystems

Text to come


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