Researchers return to Canada’s Arctic to study flora, ducks

Arctic cotton grass in Nunavut. (iStock)


A pair of botanists that have spent four years documenting local plant life in Nunavut are back in the territory to collect plant specimens in and around the hamlet of Cape Dorset and along southern Baffin Island.

Jeff Saarela estimates that over 75 percent of the Arctic’s land mass remains unexplored.  He and Roger Bull have set out to create a catalogue of all the different species that populate the Canadian Arctic.

Although some collections already exist, they date back to the 1920s and 1930s and some information they provide is not be complete.

Researcher Jeff Saarela at work near Kugluktuk, Nunavut, in 2014. (Submitted by Jeff Saarela and Roger Bull)

The exercise is not just about creating a good record of local biodiversity.  It will likely serve scientists in the future looking to understand the effects of climate change.

Saarela told CBC News, “There are models that have been produced based on various climate parameters that show if the climate warms up 5 to 7 degrees by the end of the century, the tree line, for example, could potentially move substantially downward.

The researchers will only spend a few days in the area of Cape Dorset before meeting up with a team from the National Wildlife Research Centre that has been studying eider colonies for two decades.

Researchers believe eider ducks may have created their own, richly-vegetated habitat by depositing nutrients through their droppings.  Botanists will investigate.
Researchers believe eider ducks may have created their own, richly-vegetated habitat by depositing nutrients through their droppings. The botanists will investigate.  (Jeff Saarela)


Together, they will explore some 30 islands in Hudson Strait over three weeks.

While the one group continues learning more about the waterfowl, Saarela and Bull will conduct surveys of the sea duck’s habitat and the islands.

The plants they bring back from the North will be added the the National Herbarium of Canada’s collection of more than 100 000 other Arctic specimens, at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

With files from CBC News.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Mushroom rush in Yukon, Canada, Radio Canada International

Finland:  Cool rainy June good for Finland’s mushroom hunters, Yle News

Greenland: Researchers must be honest with Arctic peoples about food contaminants: doctor, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden:  Sweden’s climate-friendly food advice project scrapped, Radio Sweden

United States:  Rising mercury levels leave their mark on yellow-billed loons, study says, Alaska Dispatch News

Caroline Arbour

Caroline got her start in journalism at RCI, filing items in French and English from its Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver bureaus. Bitten by the radio bug, she also nevertheless subsequently tried her hand at reporting for television, print and the Web, freelancing for Radio-Canada, CBC, Voice of America, L’actualité magazine and The Atlantic’s business site Quartz. Her favourite stories to cover are ones that show resilience in its many forms and also ones that highlight no issue is ever black and white. In Caroline’s wildest and weirdest dreams, she imagines spending her days roaming the Andalusian countryside on a vintage motorcycle, photographing its diverse and stunning beauty.

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