Quebec biodiversity may increase with climate change

As climate change disrupts wildlife around the world, protected lands in Quebec might actually see higher biodiversity, researchers found, creating challenges for managers as they deal with wildlife leaving warmer climes.

“We wanted to really get a feel for what climate change would mean for our biodiversity,” said Frieda Beauregard, a curator at the McGill University herbarium and a co-author of the study published in Scientific Reports. “We have a long border. It’s a big province containing several biomes. We wanted to try to get some parameters on what we can expect.”

Beauregard and her colleagues created niche models for what projected changes in climate would mean for 529 species that make up about one-third of the protected areas in southern Quebec. They studied birds, amphibians, trees and vascular plants.

The team used government data, including extensive surveys done at the provincial level, and projected future climate change scenarios to make their predictions.

The results showed that climate change could push wildlife from more southern regions of North America into protected areas in the Quebec by 2071 to 2100. Species gain could range from 12 to 530 percent, researchers found, depending on the area, while a few parts of the province may also lose biodiversity. This could raise some challenging questions for managers, Beauregard said.

“What do you do if a new species on conserved land isn’t native to the area?” she said. “Are they invasive species, or a species with a protected status? We’ve got to think through these things at a policy level.”

Header Image: Canada grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) are found in boreal forests in Canada. As the climate changes, species like this may use more northern protected areas as a refuge. ©Jacques Larivée