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Algae, precious allies of the St. Lawrence< /p>Open in full screen mode

The kelp forests of the St. Lawrence are mapped using drones and satellites. (Archive photo)

  • Lisa-Marie Bélanger (View profile)Lisa-Marie Bélanger

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Researchers around the world are interested in blue carbon, that is, carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by coastal ocean ecosystems. But what is the contribution of the St. Lawrence River?

Scientists here want to learn more about the capacity of macroalgae, such as kelp or brown algae, to store carbon.

Algae that grow in cold zones, such as in the St. Lawrence, grow faster and retain more carbon than in temperate or warm zones, but we still do not know whether this carbon is sequestered there in the long term.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Algae, however, is far from representing the solution to climate change. Marine ecosystems that sequester carbon represent 0.1% of all the carbon emitted each year by human activities, explains Fanny Noisette, professor of biological oceanography at the Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMER). from the University of Quebec at Rimouski.

This is not the solution to the climate crisis. The only solution is to reduce our [greenhouse gas] emissions.

A quote from Fanny Noisette, professor of biological oceanography, ISMER

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We must nevertheless protect algae forests, because they provide many other benefits ecological, whether to also limit local hydrodynamics and therefore slow down coastal erosion problems, underlines Sandra Autef, project manager at the Mi'gmaq and Wolastoqey Indigenous Fisheries Management Association.

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Sandra Autef, project manager at the Mi'gmaq and Wolastoqey Indigenous Fisheries Management Association (AGHAMW) and Fanny Noisette, professor of biological oceanography at the Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMER)

Her colleague, Fanny Noisette, adds that we often forget the very important aspect they have in maintaining the biodiversity of our coastal ecosystems. According to her, this is a role that is as important as their carbon capture potential. These kelp forests also have other ecological roles: they act, among other things, as a lobster nursery or a larder for sea urchins.

Various partners are also working to map these St. Lawrence forests. The goal is simple: know where they are to better protect them. If we have oil spills in the St. Lawrence, which is a threat that exists, which area will we protect first? What are the most vulnerable areas?, argues Ms. Noisette.

Mapping is carried out using drone flights or satellite imagery. There are different techniques that are being refined year after year to have more and more precise data, mentions Ms. Autef.

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Algae helps slow coastal erosion, in addition to providing refuge and food for other species.

The global portrait allows the different levels of government to make decisions to better protect these sectors, in a context of increase in the global surface area of marine protected areas.

We have targets of 30% in Canada in 2030 […] maybe that mapping wild kelp fields can be integrated into this strategy.

A quote from Sandra Autef, project manager, Mi'gmaq and Wolastoqey Indigenous Fisheries Management Association

The most recent marine area to have been protected is that of Banc-des-Amériques off the coast of Gaspé. It is also the first to have dual protection status from the provincial and federal government. It took a long time, but it happened, so we know it can happen again, says Sandra Autef. In fact, Ottawa and Quebec are working together to create a marine park between Anticosti Island and the Mingan Archipelago national park reserve. A consultation process will be undertaken shortly.

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