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The current ecological studies on Bylot Island started in 1988 as a joint collaboration between Université Laval (Centre d’études nordiques) and the Canadian Wildlife Service (Québec region). Before that, several other biologists had visited the island to conduct some ecological research, especially on the rich bird life of the island. This includes the pioneering work of J. VanTyne, W.H. Drury, L. Lemieux and L.M. Tuck in the 1950s, and more recently the work of J.D. Heyland and H. Boyd in the early 1970s. However, the current project is the longest and most intensive scientific investigation ever conducted on the island.

The large colony of Greater Snow Geese breeding on the island was the incentive to start the project. Because the population was growing rapidly during the 1980s, there was fear that this could negatively impact the Arctic tundra.

Bylot Island - Île Bylot © Esther Lévesque 

The initial goals of the study were to initiate a demographic study of the population through a long-term marking program, and to assess the impact of goose grazing on the tundra vegetation. However, over the years, the research program has broadened considerably and now includes many other components of the terrestrial ecosystem. A central theme of the project is now to study the trophic interactions (interactions between plant, herbivores and predators) in the context of global change. Thus, in addition to geese, foxes, lemmings, other bird species and the vegetation are now part of our investigations. We are also interested in understanding how anticipated climate change may impact the animal and plant communities of the tundra.

The present web site presents an overview of the ecological studies and monitoring conducted on Bylot Island by the Centre d’études nordiques and its collaborators over the last 19 years. We present in simple language general information on the ecosystem as well as more detailed results coming from our long-term investigation. We also assess the temporal and spatial variability in the climate of North Baffin Island in order to detect changes that may have occurred in recent decades. We further examine for the presence of long-term trends in our ecological data and evaluate how these could be related to climate change.

Over the years, the Bylot Island research project has grown into one of the largest and longest ecological studies in Nunavut. The site is also part of several national and international research network including EMAN (Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network), the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX), ArcticNet and ArcticWOLVES.