Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 77.00
Liaison Karen Oberer
Submission Date Dec. 11, 2020

STARS v2.2

McGill University
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, or regions of conservation importance?:

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

McGill is proud to own three nature conservancies for preservation and research. The McGill community is encouraged to visit and experience the natural beauty that lies within proximity of downtown Montreal.

Gault Nature Reserve:
Aside from the research done at McGill to advance knowledge and awareness in this area, McGill University also stewards a number of lands and ecosystems. These include the Gault Nature Reserve on Mont St. Hilaire, one of the last vestiges of primeval forest in the St. Lawrence Valley. Since 1958, McGill has protected this area of 1,000 hectares and oversees its usage for research, education, and community recreation. The site was designated as a migratory bird refuge in 1960, recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1978, and protected under the Natural Heritage Conservation Act by the Quebec Ministere du developpement durable in 2004.

Molson Nature Reserve:
Donated to McGill University as a nature conservation centre for use in study and research, the Molson Nature Reserve is located 10 minutes from the Macdonald Campus. The 51-hectare parcel of land consists of forest, woodland marshes, swamps and wetland, and provides habitat for wildlife and plant species, some of which are unique to the area.

Morgan Arboretum
The University also owns and manages the Morgan Arboretum on the western tip of the island of Montreal and the Wilder and Helen Penfield Nature Conservancy (operated under the Gault Reserve) on Lake Memphremagog. Both these sites are used for research, education and some recreation, in a balance of conservation and community enjoyment.

The Morgan Arboretum is a large expanse of land with a very diverse landscape. Most of the land is covered with forest stands composed of a variety of species in which sugar maple, red maple, beech and hemlock predominate. The forests and plantations are now largely mature and contain examples of most of Quebec's native trees and shrubs. Each of the arboretum's tree collections from across Canada and the world is based on a theme such as firs, oaks, birches, maples, lindens, spruces, hardwoods and flowering trees and shrubs. Forests, fields and plantations provide habitats for some 30 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 170 species of migratory and overwintering birds.

The Morgan Arboretum is also adjacent to the Réserve naturelle de la Forêt-de-Senneville. The Quebec provincial government designated this forest a "Réserve naturelle reconnue" or "Recongnized Natural Reserve" in 2011 under the "Loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturel" (Natural Heritage Conservation Act), a law that was passed in 2002 in order to expand the province's network of protected areas.

Lastly, the University's downtown campus is included in the Mount Royal Heritage Site, and we collaborate frequently with government and NGOs to ensure protection and enhahcement of the natural heritage of the mountain.
For more information, see: https://gault.mcgill.ca/en/

McGill works to maintain biodiversity and ensure the health of its ecosystems. On the downtown campus, landscaping and replanting activities are strategically organized around this goal, with an array of tree species are planted to maintain biodiversity and ensure plants are resilient to urban conditions.

Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution?:

A list of endangered and vulnerable species with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution, by level of extinction risk:

Several assessments to identify species present at Gault Nature Reserve have been conducted since 1958. These surveys have also included endangered and vulnerable species. Gault Nature Reserve maintains a GIS database for all data concerning species distribution which includes level of extinction risk. We need to update the species level of extinction risk periodically as it changes over the years.

Some of the endangered and vulnerable species are listed on the Gault Reserve website
(https://gault.mcgill.ca/en/the-reserve/detail/natural-history/); however, the full list is not public out of concerns for their continued survival on-site.

Description of species types found at Gault (translated from French):
"There are more than 600 species of vascular plants, 27 of which are designated threatened or vulnerable. There are also more than 300 non-vascular plants. The nature reserve is also home to more than 220 wildlife species and more than 800 species of butterflies. Of all these species, four have been designated threatened or vulnerable, including the peregrine falcon [now no longer a threatened species]."


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution?:

A brief description of areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution:

Gault Nature Reserve
The Gault Nature Reserve has been quite active in the past, especially as part of the Quebec Government Exceptional Forest Ecosystem program. Recently, most government support is directed through Gault's partnership with the Nature Centre, a local non-profit organisation that the reserve finances. (https://centrenature.qc.ca/)

The Gault Nature Reserve is home to one of the richest clusters of biodiversity in Quebec with over 600 plant species, 800 types of butterflies, 13 kinds of fish, 45 mammals, and 180 bird species. There are over 70 endangered and vulnerable plant and animal species at the Reserve and this list is constantly evolving with new discoveries made by our monitoring efforts. As well, there are many different habitat types, including many ephemeral ponds and wetlands which are very important ecologically as they are disappearing rapidly from the region.

Concerning exceptional forest ecosystems, all three types are found at Gault Nature Reserve:
- Rare forest types: Rare forests are forest ecosystems that occupy a limited number of sites and cover a small area in Quebec.
- Refuge forest types: These forests are home to one or more plant species threatened or vulnerable or likely to be so designated.
- Ancient forest types: This term refers to stands that have not been modified by humans, which have not undergone any recent major disruption and in which we find very old trees. These forests have the particularity to contain both living, dead and senescent trees and a floor littered with large trunks in various stages of decomposition. There are few ancient forests in Quebec. In the South of the province, most forests have indeed been greatly affected by colonization and urbanization.

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or areas of biodiversity importance and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

60% of Gault Nature Reserve is recognized by the Quebec Government as Exceptional Forest Ecosystem. This program was developed by a research group of the Quebec Ministry of Forest and Parcs. The Mont Saint-Hilaire Nature Centre and The Ministry of Forest and Parcs identified and validated all the different types of Exceptional Forest Ecosystems with the assistance of Arold Lavoie, a highly trained botanist, of the Mont-Saint-Hilaire Nature Centre. Mr Lavoie is constantly surveying the mountain for endangered and vulnerable species.

In addition, a complete review of the botanical species list was undertaken by Elliot T.L. and T.J. Davies, published in 2019. (see: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10531-018-01688-2)

The Canadian federal government designated Mont Saint-Hilaire as a Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 1960, under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. UNESCO also recognized mountain as a Biosphere Reserve in 1978.

The Gault Reserve was protected as a "Réserve naturelle" under the Natural Heritage Conservation Act by the Quebec Ministere du developpement durable in 2004 (details below).


A brief description of the scope of the assessment(s):

Gault Nature Reserve periodically applies with partners for federal or provincial funding to perform assessments on endangered species. As for a complete survey of species at Gault, none is planned for the near future.

A brief description of the plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats, and/or ecosystems:

The Gault Nature Reserve is a private nature reserve and is protected by a strict agreement with the Government of Quebec. McGill is bound by an agreement with the Ministry of Environment to implement a management plan and enforce conservation measures. As part of the agreement, the university must list approved and prohibited activities as well. Details of the agreement are as follows (translated from French):

"Conservation objectives and measures
The owner, McGill University, obtained a good part of this Monteregian hill in 1958, through the property donation of Brigadier Andrew Hamilton Gault. Since then, the University has continued to protect Mont Saint-Hilaire by promoting voluntary conservation actions. McGill University manages this hill according to two objectives: on the one hand, to preserve the integrity of this unique ecosystem for the benefit of present and future generations and, according to the limits set by the first objective, to use the site to practice research and teaching activities at the university level and to make it accessible to the population for recreational and educational activities.

"Permitted activities
The following activities are permitted at the Gault Nature Reserve: scientific and educational activities, extensive outdoor activities on landscaped or marked trails open to the public (hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing). The owner reserves certain additional uses, including the development of habitat, the maintenance of trails and infrastructure and the management Lake Hertel’s water levels.

"Prohibited activities
The following activities are prohibited at the Gault Nature Reserve: harvesting, picking, mowing, destruction or cutting of existing vegetation, including wood, mushrooms and wild fruits; filling, digging, drainage or dewatering work; extraction of mineral or organic matter or other soil modification work; the development of trails; the erection, installation or construction of infrastructure, buildings, trailers, tent trailers or any other type of dwelling, outbuildings or buildings; the use of fertilizers, pesticides or phytocides; the deposit of waste, residual fertilizers or other hazardous materials or products; the planting or introduction of genetically modified plants; the introduction of non-native animals or plants; motorized vehicle traffic; traffic outside the network of public access trails; access to the nature reserve by other entrances than the official access; access to the nature reserve outside opening hours; access to the Conservation Area at any time; lighting of fires; the use of firearms and the launching of boats."

Source: http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/biodiversite/prive/naturelle/gault-mcgill/index.htm

In addition, McGill partners with the Centre Nature Mont St-Hilaire, a non-profit organization that manages public access to the reserve and runs conservation programs and outreach. In its new agreement with McGill, the university provides the centre with professional services such as a security patrol, a gatekeeper, and maintenance workers. In addition, the university makes a financial contribution to the Center’s mission: 30% of annual pass sales goes to the Centre Nature to support its services.

The Centre Nature Mont St-Hilaire runs programs to protect endangered species and to conserve habitats on the reserve. One example is a monitoring program of chimney swift roosts. Chimney swifts are listed as "threatened" in Canada under the Species at Risk Act (2002). Another example is the monitoring and conservation efforts of the snapping turtle both at the Gault Reserve and at a local golf course. The snapping turtle is listed as a species of "special concern" under the Species at Risk Act.

See EN 10 for more details about this community partnership.


Estimated percentage of areas of biodiversity importance that are also protected areas :

Website URL where information about the institution’s biodiversity initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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