Montreal

Species loss is happening 'here in front of our own eyes,' Quebec biologists warn

With a United Nations report stating species loss is accelerating tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, Quebec biologists are sounding the alarm.

UN report says nature is in its worst shape in human history and that doesn't exclude Quebec

Pierre-Alexandre Bourgeois and fellow biologist Jérémie Maranda check out a map to see where amphibians may be in Pointe-Claire's Terra-Cotta Park. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Quebec biologists are sounding the alarm after a United Nations report stated that up to one million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction globally.

The biodiversity report found that on land more than half a million species "have insufficient habitat for long-term survival" and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored.

"My initial reaction was, 'Finally they're talking about it,'" said biologist Pierre-Alexandre Bourgeois.

"It's good for people to learn about this stuff, even if it's sad."

Bourgeois is both a researcher and conservationist at the Ecomuseum in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. 

"It's not just happening around the world, outside Canada, it happens here in front of our own eyes," he said.

Bourgeois is currently working with Pointe-Claire to confirm the presence of amphibians in its Terra-Cotta Park.

"If ever we do find amphibians and important habitats for them, the city will manage to better protect those sites," he said.

Bourgeois said Pointe-Claire is being proactive in this case and hopes other cities and towns in Quebec will consider it too.

Pierre-Alexandre Bourgeois, a biologist with the Ecomuseum, said people should worry about the species here at home. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

From bumble bees to snakes 

The rusty-patched bumble bee is an example of a species that was once prevalent in Quebec and is now considered extinct in the province.

"You used to go in a pasture in southern Quebec and you may not have noticed it because it was a bumble bee, but it was around you," said Maxim Larrivée, the head of research and collection at Montreal's Insectarium.

"Now, it's extinct in Quebec. And it's not because we aren't looking, we are."

Other species are in danger: the brown snake, the monarch butterfly, swallows, even some bugs.

"You can just look at your windshield or your bumper. It's a lot cleaner than it used to be in the 80s and 70s," said Larrivée.

What can you do to help?

Both biologists said governments need to take the risk to biodiversity seriously, but citizens can also help.

"I think every citizen can make a difference." said Larrivée.

Larrivée said citizen science programs such as the Insectarium's Mission Monarch are a good start — it has participants monitor the monarch's reproductive success.

Volunteers for the Ecomuseum monitor frog calls across the province in an effort to survey which frogs are where and whether they are declining.

"It's not just important for the species, who have a right to exist in this world, but for people," said Bourgeois.

He said the diverse species ensure humans have access to the water they need and fresh air.

A river otter lounges at the Ecomuseum in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

About the Author

Sarah Leavitt

Journalist

Sarah Leavitt is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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