The value of conserving territories in their natural state goes beyond the safeguarding of samples of all of Quebec’s ecological heritage.
Ecological reserves also exist — and many of them — for the purpose of scientific research.
Little and little is known about the functioning of natural environments, which are continually attacked by the development and multiple uses of the territory.
Ecological reserves are thus used to make a comparative assessment of the repercussions of human activities on the environment.
Indeed, to know the impact of certain aggressions on an ecosystem, it is necessary to know how it behaves under natural conditions.
Ecological reserves fill this gap by promoting knowledge and understanding of the functioning of these environments.
For better use of the territory and its resources, this function is particularly important.
From a conservation and sustainable development perspective, a network of ecological reserves therefore constitutes the point of reference we need to assess the environmental effects of work carried out in Québec.
In this sense, ecological reserves are real laboratories in the natural environment and a veritable encyclopedia of nature just waiting to be read and understood.
Scientific research activity has always been very present since the constitution of the first ecological reserves.
With the progress of the network, the number of scientific researches in ecological reserves has steadily increased.
Two main categories of research projects are carried out in ecological reserves: fundamental research on ecosystems and inventory and species monitoring projects.
As an indication, in the Tantaré ecological reserve alone, established in 1978, more than fifteen major sectors of ecology have been addressed and some 53 reports and scientific publications have been produced by 59 different researchers. .
University and departmental researchers are currently the main stakeholders in research in ecological reserves.
All their research must be carried out in natural environments that are permanently and integrally protected for the very long term.
All require protected areas that are well representative of the natural ecosystems of Quebec.
Ecological reserves therefore offer the unique possibility of being able to carry out long-term research on the natural environment without the risk of seeing the vocation or use of the territory under study modified.
To date, scientific research has addressed themes related to both terrestrial ecosystems and aquatic environments.
It was also centered on knowledge of the functioning of forest ecosystems, on the evolutionary dynamism of certain forests, on the particular genetics of rare plants, on the animal communities of bodies of water, on the ecological monitoring of natural environments likely to be affected by airborne pollutants.
Ecological reserves have, in many cases, made it possible to serve as benchmarks for measuring the state of the environment in relation to environments without human occupation.
Research in ecological reserves can and must concern the Quebec community through its activities and its results.
Thus, there is nothing to prevent a group of ornithologists or amateur entomologists from obtaining authorization to inventory or monitor a particular animal population in an ecological reserve.
And if it is “highly scientific” research, for example the comparative study of the formation and evolution of different types of peatlands, the results can directly contribute to improving the management of peatland resource in Quebec, for the benefit of all.
Can we imagine for a moment all the gains that Quebec society can derive in the long term from a network of ecological reserves where scientific research is significant?
Knowing how our natural ecosystems work, to better manage forests, lakes, wetlands, to promote a more appropriate, more complete and more sustainable use of species and habitats, all in all, to bring about a harmonious use of our resources according to our needs, but with respect for the perpetuation of natural ecological processes, this is the mandate
research in ecological reserves.