Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG)
Université Laval
Animal diversity

The peatlands of southern Canada have been exploited and destroyed by a variety of stakeholders, especially by agriculture and forestry, but also by urbanization and horticultural peat industry. Since 1993, our research on wildlife, particularly birds, aimed at understanding how these animals react to different practices of peat harvesting and restoration, to promote effective management of the peatland fauna.

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) on wooden boardwalk in the Bois-des-Bel peatland, Quebec (Photo: F. Isselin-Nondedeu).
Animal diversity 1993


Recolonization of abandoned and restored peatlands

This project, in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Savard of the Canadian Wildlife Service, aims to determine whether bird populations in abandoned and restored peatlands tend to become similar to those of natural bogs. We also studied the recolonization of peatlands by amphibians, insects and mammals. Our general approach is to build a long-term database from repeated visits to the same places. Some of these sites had been abandoned by the peat industry several years before the beginning of our research, others were abandoned after 1993. We carried bird inventories in 15 bogs, initially every three years, and now every six years. The next inventory will be held in 2011.


So far, we have discovered that even if birds colonize abandoned sites quickly, new communities differ greatly from the original communities, even after several decades post-operation. Our research has also shown the importance of southern peatlands in contribution to the regional biodiversity. In the coming years, we hope to begin a detailed analysis of the metapopulation of the Palm Warbler, a species closely associated with peatlands.



Biogeography of peatland birds

This project was the subject of Sophie Calmé's doctoral thesis, now a professor at the Université de Sherbrooke. This project ended in 1999 and aimed to understand the factors governing the distribution of bird species in peatlands differing by their size and isolation.


We found that birds in small peatlands are fully represented in larger peatlands, resulting mainly from the fact that some microhabitats, such as grasslands, are found only in larger peatlands. Thus, some birds like the Savannah Sparrow, the Palm Warbler and the Upland Sandpiper are found only in large natural peatlands. Also, Sophie Calmé's researches clearly showed that peatlands contribute significantly to regional avian diversity, particularly in the lowlands of the St. Lawrence River.



Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas). (Photo: A. Desrochers.)

André Desrochers in an inventory of bird species in a peatland.



Productivity of peatland birds

This project has been the master subject of Stéphanie Haddad, now copy editor at NRC, Ottawa. This project, conducted from 1995 to 1997, showed that the proximity of the harvest of peat was not detrimental to the reproduction of birds. However, the mined peatlands appeared to be more vulnerable to bird nest predation than natural peatlands.



Chicks of Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum) in nest (Photo: S. St-Onge, Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la faune du Québec).



Use of peatlands by amphibians

The global decline of amphibians worries conservationists. In this project, Marc Mazerolle (Ph.D., now research assistant at UQAT) compared the use of peatlands by the amphibians to the non-peat habitats. Marc Mazerolle found that amphibians use peatlands especially as summering sites. Moreover, the intensity of peat mining affects the use of the ponds, but the quantity and the proximity of complementary habitats (i.e., adjacent ponds, forest) appear to reduce these effects. Finally, dry surfaces associated with peat extraction hamper the movements of these animals, although these effects can be mitigated by the presence of drainage ditches.



Spruce Grouse: regionally dependent of peatlands?

Although common throughout much of its range, the Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) is a species of concern in southern Quebec. Its regionally threatened status could result from the loss and fragmentation of conifers/peatlands complexes which the species is regionally associated. Céline Macabiau (Ph.D. student) attempts to elucidate this problem in a collaborative project with the ?Ministère québécois des Ressources naturelles et de la faune? (Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife). Under this project, Céline Macabiau conducts grouse inventories and follows individuals with radio transmitters. The radio telemetry is particularly useful for determining the degree of utilization of peatlands by adults and juveniles. In 2009, we will conduct a translocation experiment (movement of males over 25 km to determine the importance of the peatland isolation as a factor limiting Spruce Grouse regionally. The purpose of this project is to make recommendations for the management of populations of Spruce Grouse and their habitats.


Spruce Grouse in a tree (Photo: A. Desrochers).


Spruce Grouse on ground (Photo: A. Desrochers).

Project's publication(s) & communication(s)


© 2009 PERG. | All rights reserved. | C2000