Montréal, Canada

Artwork by NIPPAYSAGE et Société du parc Jean-Drapeau

The power of plants and natural ecosystems to deliver benefits

How is the initiative shaped by scientific evidence of the potential for plants and natural ecosystems to deliver benefits?

The literature on large urban parks in the western world, Park People’s Canadian City Parks Reports, studies by the INSPQ (Québec’s public health institute) and numerous books on landscape architecture, biology, sustainable development, and ecological transition informed the design process. Knowing that urban parks can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than residential and industrial areas, the equivalent of more than 30 soccer fields will be given back to the citizens, fostering new experiences in nature. The master plan ensures that the park will reduce its heat islands, offering a variety of open, semi-shade and full-shade treed spaces that provide a cooling effect. There is a significant correlation between the percentage of shade cover in the parks and the number of people seeking reprieve from the sun, whether for its cooling nature or for UV protection. An analysis of the ecological value of the existing plant habitats (structures, forms, areas) preceded the master plan. Habitats with multi-stratum vegetation, characterized by their high biomass and plant diversity, were considered to be of greater interest than habitats with simpler, less dense, and less diverse structures. The vegetation strategy adopted in the design is based on this analysis, plus the recommendations of the study by Francoeur, Dupras et al. which states to establish a biodiversity corridor and to improve ecological complexity one must increase the number of plant habitats of great ecological interest, manage and diversify plant habitats and introduce new types of habitats, such as shrublands, prairies, and three-layered stratified forests.

How has the city exploited the potential of plants and associated ecosystems to deliver more than one benefit?

Increasing the complexity of low vegetation zones will help support pollinator species in serious decline and increase ecosystem services. Together, this will help increase the resilience of Montréal’s natural urban heritage. As we seek to adapt to climate change and augment biodiversity, it is important, as the Friends of the Parks’ report reminds us, to ensure that parks include natural areas. The Master Plan responds to this call to increase nature in urban areas and develop green infrastructure with its proposition to create an ecological corridor that traverses the park. This ecological connectivity will improve ecosystem performance, reduce the heat island effect, and provide a pathway for the park’s fauna. It is fundamental to the maintenance of populations of living organisms, their movement across the landscape, and to ensuring their genetic diversity at all scales.
The Plan provides guidance on transitioning toward eco-responsible practices that promote the establishment of native plants, encouraging biodiversity, pollinators, and cooling oases. Ornamental plantations, parking lots, and lawns are priority areas for this type of intervention. A significant portion of the green spaces will transition toward a sustainable management system, which will improve the contribution of green infrastructure in the park. In addition to the existing filtering marshes, wetlands will be restored and constructed, providing many additional ecosystem services. Not only will Parc Jean-Drapeau have more ecological green spaces that contribute to Montrealers’ public health, but the increased biodiversity of the urban green space will have a restorative effect and enhance a sense of well-being.