New Indicators And Integration Of Information (Room BC)

Aquatic Invasive Species

Picture of Nathalie Simard

Nathalie Simard

Senior Biologist
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Biography

Natalie Simard has a bachelor’s degree in biology (1988) and a master’s degree in marine ecology from Université Laval (1994). As senior biologist, she coordinates Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s monitoring program for aquatic invasive species (AIS) and participates in many research projects in this field.

Abstract

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are introduced to locations outside of their natural range by human activity. They pose a threat to the environment, the economy and society. The potential vectors of introduction may be naturally occurring or anthropogenic. The species monitored include a green alga from Japan (Codium fragile), the European Green Crab, the Skeleton Shrimp, several tunicate species and the bryozoan Membranipora membranacea. These invasive species are found at the Magdalen Islands, around the Gaspé Peninsula and along the North Shore.

Invasive Animal Species

Picture of Isabelle Desjardins

Isabelle Desjardins

Coordinator, Invasive Alien Wildlife Species
Direction de la biodiversité et des maladies de la faune
Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs

Biography

Isabelle Desjardins holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and is a master’s degree candidate in maritime resource management at the Université du Québec à Rimouski. She has recently joined the MDDEFP and in July 2012 assumed the role of coordinator for the invasive alien wildlife species file at the MDDEFP’s Direction de la biodiversité et des maladies de la faune.

Abstract

Quebec has several programs and monitoring networks for invasive alien plant and animal species. Invasive alien species (IAS) monitoring programs include the Early Detection and Prevention Network for Aquatic Invasive Species in the St. Lawrence River, composed of 41 volunteer commercial fishers; the Réseau de suivi ichthyologique (RSI), an ichthyological monitoring network that identifies the presence of IAS during scientific fishing; and the Asiatic Clam monitoring program. Alien invasive species with high invasion potential that have been caught by the two networks since 2007 include the Mitten Crab, Blueback Herring, Round Goby, Tench (411 specimens for this species alone) and Roach. An initial observation of the Asiatic Clam (Corbicula fluminea) near the Gentilly nuclear generating station has prompted a study on the spread of this species. The first steps will be to determine whether it can reach a higher population density, whether it is occurring elsewhere in Quebec and what its dynamics are in cold water. In addition to all this is the design of an early detection protocol for invasive alien animal species that is based on two sampling methods, namely the traditional (nets), and molecular (DNA analysis) approaches.

Invasive Plant Species

Picture of Isabelle Simard

Isabelle Simard

Coordinator, Invasive Alien Plant Species
Direction du patrimoine écologique et des parcs
Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs

Biography

Holder of a PhD in environmental sciences from the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Isabelle Simard has been the coordinator for the invasive alien plant species file at the MDDEFP since 2006. She is currently developing detection and monitoring networks for invasive alien plants and is creating awareness and prevention tools for limiting the introduction and propagation of invasive alien species.

Abstract

The monitoring program for invasive alien plant species in the St. Lawrence River’s wetlands was launched in 2004 by Environment Canada together with local communities. It was transferred to the MDDEFP in 2011 as part of the St. Lawrence Action Plan 2011–2016. The plant species invasion assessment is based on the calculation of the overall invasion index, which takes into account the median coverage of each invasive plant on a site, and the calculation of the average value of the sampling stations within a 1-km-wide hexagonal unit area. This approach makes it possible to geographically characterize the degree of invasiveness (absent, low, moderate, high). The study area includes Lake Saint-François, the Beauharnois Canal, Lake Saint-Louis, the Boucherville archipelago and Sainte­Thérèse Island, Lake Saint-Pierre and the western part of the fluvial estuary (upstream from Portneuf). In 2012, 94 sites were sampled by 5 ZIP committees and the Société d’aménagement de la baie Lavallière. An influence marked by low water levels was observed. Among the invasive plants, the Common Reed and Reed Canary Grass are on the rise, and Purple Loosestrife, the most widespread invasive species, is dominant only in certain areas.

Overview of Approaches and Methods for Integrating Environmental Information

Picture of Caroline Savage

Caroline Savage

Environmental Indicators Specialist
Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance
Environment Canada

Biography

Caroline Savage holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in biological sciences from the Université de Montréal. In January 2002 she joined Environment Canada, where she has worked on many projects as a plant ecology and geomatics specialist, including the International Joint Commission’s research project on the impact of water level fluctuations on the river’s marsh bird habitats. She was involved in projects to monitor wetlands, invasive plants and, more recently, benthic macroinvertebrates. Her current primary field of work is the development and integration of environmental indicators.

Abstract

This presentation addresses the basic concepts of indicators, their definition and functions, as well as the methods that could be used to integrate scientific data in order to provide an overview of ecosystem health. The presentation highlights the importance of carefully selecting indicators and clearly identifying the criteria and issues to be addressed. The challenge lies in actually communicating complex scientific information to our various clienteles. The approaches presented are concept maps, pooled findings, spatial interpolation and combined indices.

Can we integrate our indicators to obtain a better picture of the St. Lawrence?

Picture of Martin Jean

Facilitator: Martin Jean

The plenary session began with the following question: How do you feel about continuing to work on the integration methods for monitoring the St. Lawrence?

Potential considerations

A number of considerations were raised, including the linking of status indicators with other complementary indicators. The literature provides approaches for dealing with political, scientific and societal functions. Unfortunately, there is no linkage between these status indicators and pressure indicators (e.g. quantity of nutrients from agriculture, municipal sanitation, shoreline quality). There is also a lack of performance indicators for the measures implemented by the governments to improve river quality. For the time being, the various status indicators are functioning in disciplinary silos and do not provide a comprehensive answer. A question to consider is whether we should try to integrate the existing indicators or implement them in an integrated manner.

The picture painted by the indicators must also take into account the target clientele. The information presented by the State of the St. Lawrence Monitoring Program at the Rendez-vous St. Lawrence and by the fact sheets is mainly intended for an informed clientele. However, according to some stakeholders, citizen involvement is key to initiatives that could bring about political change, so the information has to be brought to multiple levels in order to reach both scientific and public clienteles. The concept of citizen involvement puts the social, political and economic dimensions back on the table and raises the question of how we can satisfy the public while preserving the river. The public clientele also needs more specific parameters to properly understand quality indices for the natural environment. The value scales used do not seem to reach everyone; they are overly abstract for some. In addition to this level of information, raising awareness among elected municipal officials is considered essential to ensure that decisions are taken and actions are implemented wisely in an environmentally responsible manner. Certain environmental issues do not seem to be fully understood by these officials, who do not always adjust their decisions in light of the information generated by scientific monitoring.

Obstacles

In addition to the potential for integrating indicators, there are also possible obstacles. There remains a risk of trying too hard to simplify health status with a single number. Some more detailed information could be obscured, given that, while some indicators indicate improvement, others, on the contrary, indicate deterioration. Both findings must be released and not just an overall average. The example of the index of bacteriological and physico-chemical quality (IBPQ) was given to illustrate the risks of integration. There is a need for interpretation beyond the simple value of the index. The use of sub-indices (e.g. phosphorus, fecal coliforms) fosters a better understanding of the ecosystem’s health status. While access to integrated information is important, access to more detailed information is also needed to adequately portray certain situations.

Another issue is the insufficient criteria. Criteria do exist for some parameters (e.g. phosphorous) but are not defined for, say, wetland area. It therefore becomes difficult to comment on the health of the St. Lawrence using these indicators, as they lack points of reference.

Next overview

In preparation for the upcoming publication of the Overview of the State of the St. Lawrence River in 2014, some points have been raised, including the expansion of target clienteles. The issue of reaching the elected officials of riverside municipalities has already been mentioned, but to that can be added the need for information tools intended to raise early awareness among children. Certain tools designed for children were on offer until recently discontinued (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada’s Biosphère).

Two content considerations were raised. The first involves establishing a diagnosis to understand the dynamics of the environment and the causes of the current status of certain indicators rather than merely explaining how they are trending. The second involves identifying action-based objectives and targets to improve the state of the St. Lawrence. The regional round tables would benefit from engaging in this process.

The overview's format was also discussed: access to an interactive map could be used to transcend the limitations of a hardcopy report. Providing all the clienteles with electronic access to an interactive map, the data and the findings of the State of the St. Lawrence Monitoring Program’s various partner organizations would lead to more effective sharing of information and could generate better decision-making support at the appropriate time.

Other points discussed

Another point raised concerns democratizing access to the river. Docking fees are now charged at many wharves that have been built with taxpayers’ money. Providing access to the river is a means of raising public awareness of its state. By contrast, it will be difficult to motivate the public to protect the river if it is inaccessible.