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St. Lawrence ECOsystem Health Research and Observation NETwork (SECO.Net)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada provided $496,838 via the Partnership Fund to support this research network formed by the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR) to track eutrophication in the St. Lawrence region through to 2020, using testing and computer modeling.

Eutrophication occurs when fertilizer and organic run-off from agriculture enters waterways, causing dense blooms of algae and weeds that cause a plunge in oxygen levels. As a result, fish and shellfish may not survive. This low-oxygen water condition is called hypoxia.

Due to climate change, the Gulf of St. Lawrence is warming. Eutrophication thrives in warmth and makes water acidic. Acidity impacts species that form calcified shells, which includes key regional commercial fisheries: Snow Crab, Lobster, and Northern Shrimp. Impacts to the ecosystem supporting beluga whales, a species at risk, is also a concern.

The research network will determine whether the increase in organic materials from the watershed and the atmosphere contributes to the eutrophication, hypoxia and acidification of bottom waters in the lower St. Lawrence estuary, and whether it causes further coastal degradation such as harmful algae blooms and habitat loss. Professors and graduate students from UQAR, and McGill and Laval Universities will perform much of the work with DFO researchers as co-supervisors.

Project number: QC2017.2
Year: 2017, 2018, 2019
Partner: University Laval
Principal Investigator: Jean-Éric Tremblay
Ecoregion: Central Canada, Gulf of St. Lawrence

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