UQAC announces a new Industrial Research Chair on the dynamics and growth of the boreal forest

Saguenay, January 17, 2017 – The Université du Québec à Chicoutimi is proud to announce that, under the prestigious Industrial Research Chairs (IRC) Program, Hubert Morin, professor in the Department of Fundamental Science, has been awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) industrial research chair on black spruce growth and the influence of spruce budworm on landscape variability in boreal forests for an initial five-year term.

Several valued partners have granted $3,555,000 in cash and in kind to support the Chair’s activities. In addition to the $1 million grant awarded by NSERC, the amount includes $1,150,000 in cash and in kind from Resolute Forest Products, $535,000 in cash and $700,000 in kind from UQAC, $75,000 from the university’s foundation, and $95,000 in cash and in kind from the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.

According to UQAC’s rector, Martin Gauthier, “Professor Morin is an expert in boreal forest dynamics with regard to natural disturbances. The creation of this Chair under the IRC Program not only recognizes the extensive expertise Mr. Morin and his team have developed; it will also make it possible to recruit more graduate students, while consolidating a long-standing partnership with Resolute and our boreal forest niche of excellence.”

“Resolute has been supporting research at the university for over 25 years, enhancing our understanding of the boreal forest,” said Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer of Resolute Forest Products. “The forest products industry, which sources fibre from the boreal forest, is facing growing challenges related to a number of issues, including climate change. Through the work of the university chair, we will gain important insight into devastating insect infestations, like the spruce budworm that is affecting some four million hectares of Quebec forest, and their impact on fibre supply and the quality of wood.”

“Cooperation between university, industry and government partners is essential in order to address research challenges while meeting the needs of the private sector. We are proud to support this long-term partnership aimed at better understanding the boreal forest in relation to insect epidemics” said Bettina Hamelin, vice president of NSERC’s Research Partnerships Directorate.

About the NSERC industrial research chair on black spruce growth and the influence of spruce budworm on landscape variability in boreal forests

The Chair targets three research topics: the relationships between spruce budworm outbreaks and landscape variability in boreal forests; the history and evolution of spruce budworm outbreaks and their impact on wood-supply management and wood quality; and the impact of climate change on growth and quality of black spruce stems.

The spruce budworm is the insect that is causing the most damage to the softwood forests of eastern North America and is responsible for the multi-storeyed structure typical of old growth forests. A better knowledge of its activity over time is essential for ecosystem management. There is currently an outbreak underway in Quebec and the gradual spread of defoliation is affecting the supply of quality wood to mills. Lastly, the black spruce is the species most coveted in Eastern Canada for the quality of its fibre. The viability of the industry in Canada’s eastern boreal forest depends on this species being in adequate supply and of good quality.

The work carried out by the Chair will make it possible to determine the impact of past spruce budworm outbreaks on the structural variability of the boreal forest over the medium term (the past 1,000 years) and the long term (the past 10,000 years (holocene)) and to determine the variables that influence black spruce growth in the context of climate change. A chronology of spruce budworm outbreaks across its distribution area in eastern North America will be completed using dendrochronology. To go further back into the past, millenary chronologies will be obtained using original dendrochronological analyses of trees submerged in lakes, and the past 10,000 years will be covered using new and unique paleoecological techniques involving macrofossil analyses of digestive waste (feces) and microfossil analyses of spruce budworm moth scales in the sediment. Spatial analyses of the various catalogued outbreaks will guide supply management while analyses of the quality of wood affected by defoliation will be used to determine the times when the trees may be harvested according to use. Detailed analyses of intra-annual ring development at the cellular level (xylogenesis) and precise measurements of trunk variations will be used to determine the variables influencing black spruce growth, make spatialized models in its distribution area and study wood quality.

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Marie-France Audet, Information Officer
Communications and Public Relations Department
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
418 545-5011, ext. 5006  |

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