A visit to the Laurentian Maple Forest of the Montréal Biodôme makes for a great outing to observe a typical Québec forest, just a few metro stations away from downtown! Here, the whole family will have fun trying to spot the lynx in its habitat and marvel at the skills of the raccoons!
As you pass through the doors of the Laurentian Maple Forest at the Montréal Biodôme, you can hear a stream ripple between the maple and fir trees as a river otter dives in. Keep your eyes peeled as it can stay underwater up to four minutes! Further on, a beaver is busy at its dam under the watchful eye of another rodent, the porcupine, usually perched at the very top of its tree. Lying on a rock, a lynx stretches out in a ray of sunshine... A rare sight that animal lovers will want to savour, because precious moments like these are usually difficult to capture in the wild.
From the top of the footbridge, you enjoy a breathtaking view of this mixed forest (deciduous and coniferous). The diversity of the environment is clearly visible, and in addition to mammals, it is home to several species of fish, frogs, turtles and birds.
The four seasons at the Biodôme
Home to the animals of the Laurentian forest, this landscape evokes a series of terrestrial and aquatic environments: mature forest, mountain stream, beaver pond, regenerating forest, swamp, etc.
The rocks imitate gneiss which, in nature, was formed in the great depths of the Earth and shaped under high pressures and temperatures.
What makes this ecosystem special is that it wakes up, blooms, changes colours and falls asleep in tune with the seasons. As in nature, it is mainly variations in the length of the day that coax the plants into dormancy towards the end of the summer. It is at this time that the trees put on their autumn colours. But at the Montréal Biodôme, a milder temperature is maintained, which makes the summer last longer, making it almost feel like Indian summer.
Behind the scenes at the Biodôme
If fall takes its time, spring comes early at the Montréal Biodôme! The Laurentian Maple Forest is a spectacular demonstration of the ability of living beings to adapt to temperature variations.
At the Biodôme as in nature, the decrease in the length of the day heralds the imminent arrival of the short winter, which is maintained for 8 to 12 weeks. It is during this period that plants go into dormancy and leaves fall off. It is also in this ecosystem that temperature variations are most noticeable, reaching 25°C at the height of summer and gradually dropping to 4°C at night and 9°C during the day in winter, in order to maintain the "dormant" state of the plants. Then, as the days grow longer and March arrives, the temperature is raised to 12°C at night and 16°C during the day, which is generally effective in bringing the dormancy to an end and making the Biodôme the first place in Montreal to enjoy the return of spring!
A few facts and figures
- The Laurentian Maple Forest is similar to those you might see when you take a hike down a mountain in Mauricie National Park.
- The main deciduous and coniferous trees in the Laurentians grow in the ecosystem, including sugar maple and yellow birch, as well as conifers such as fir and white spruce.
- The ecosystem occupies an area of approximately 1,500 sq. m. with several terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
- The relative humidity ranges from 45% to 90%.
- At the Biodôme as in nature, the duration of dormancy varies according to species and geographical origin. It is the decrease in photoperiod that is the main factor for plants to fall into dormancy. In Quebec, plants go from dormancy to quiescence around the month of January. It is during this period that maintaining low temperatures postpones "budburst". At the Biodôme, temperatures rise again around April and, a few weeks later, leaves appear in the trees.
The Biodôme, much more than a museum!
Thanks to its large collection of animals and plants, the Biodôme is a fertile ground for the conservation of species in Quebec. In fact, the Biodôme's research teams and various collaborators are actively involved in a number of conservation programs, including those for the wood turtle, copper redhorse, chorus frog, wild garlic and five-leaf ginseng. In the case of wild garlic and North American ginseng, a restoration program has been implemented to prevent their disappearance and to promote their reintroduction into the natural environment.