Updated: Mon, 07/22/2024 - 15:29

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La réouverture graduelle du campus du centre-ville se poursuit. Complément d'information : Direction de la protection et de la prévention.

MSSI newsletter

Aeriel view of Monteregie, QC

Sustainable Landscapes


Landscapes connect communities to the natural capital needed for the sustainable provision of ecosystem services like food, energy, clean water, and regulation of key processes like floods and climate. In an interconnected world, where the socioeconomic and biophysical drivers of landscape change are increasingly linked to regional and global processes, decision-making at the landscape scale necessitates an integrated view that recognizes connectivity at different scales.

We are developing methods and tools to assess landscape sustainability that consider issues of scale and cross-landscape connections. The theme is building a community of researchers from across the social and natural sciences around landscape sustainability, training the next generation of student researchers, and engaging stakeholders locally and nationally through a knowledge-to-action approach to better link science, engineering, and decision-making.

Theme co-Leads

Elena Bennett

Department of Natural Resource Sciences; Bieler School of the Environment

Brian Robinson

Department of Geography

Laxmi Sushama

Department of Civil Engineering

Research Projects

Research Projects - Northern Landscapes Subgroup

The Northern Landscapes subgroup works in collaboration with the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design (TISED) to specifically address climate change adaptation and mitigation in Canada's Arctic landscapes. The subgroup is working to understand the evolving landscapes of the north from a regional earth system perspective and its implications for engineering systems.

Engineering Thresholds for the Arctic

This project identifies critical parameters and thresholds governing the performance of engineering systems in Canada’s permafrost regions to support development of innovative design techniques for future sustainable engineering systems, using existing regional climate simulations and observations. Lead researcher: Laxmi Sushama.

  • Fluvial inundation parameterization in climate model and its effects on regional climate: a case study of the 2009 Red River spring flood. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 2020. See paper
  • Abrupt changes across the Arctic permafrost region endanger northern development. Nature Climate Change, 2019. Read more
  • Arctic precipitation and surface wind speed associated with cyclones in a changing climate. Climate Dynamics, 2021. Read more.

Renewable-based Thermosiphon

Climate change poses important challenges in permafrost regions by thawing irreversibly, compromising ground stability and causing high seepage flows. This project explores the development of thermosyphons, a renewable energy-based technique that uses subfreezing winter temperatures to create enough freezing in permafrost to last during the summer. Lead researcher: Agus Sasmito.

  • Experimental and unified mathematical frameworks of water-ice phase change for cold thermal energy storage. International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, 2022. Read more.

Climate Change Mitigation through Improved Mining Equipment Management

Diesel equipment used in the mining industry significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. This project will quantify the relative importance of equipment reliability on fuel consumption, thus helping mining operations develop maintenance strategies that assist in reducing emissions. Lead researcher: Laxmi Sushama.

Impact of COVID-19-related Traffic Slowdown on Urban Heat Characteristics

The focus of this project is to quantify the impact of COVID-19-related traffic slowdowns using carefully designed urban climate simulations.

  • Impact of COVID-19-Related Traffic Slowdown on Urban Heat Characteristics. Atmosphere, 2021. Read more.

Sustainable Transportation and Regional Climate

This project tries to capture the effect of weather variables on station-level ridership for Bixi, Montreal's bicycle sharing program, under current climate conditions, and to project ridership demand for future decades based on outputs from climate models.

Developing a Framework for Analysing Landscape Sustainability

This project is a collaboration with ResNet researchers and partners to develop a transdisciplinary framework to assess the ecological and social sustainability of working landscapes in Canada. Lead researcher: Elena Bennett.

  • Mismatches in the Ecosystem Services Literature—a Review of Spatial, Temporal, and Functional-Conceptual Mismatches. Current Landscape Ecology Reports, 2021. See open access paper.
  • Determining Freshwater Lake Communities’ Vulnerability to Snowstorms in the Northwest Territories. Water, 2021. See open access paper.
  • Ecosystem services and the resilience of agricultural landscapes. Advances in Ecological Research, 2021. Read more.

Montreal’s Foodshed

This project maps the geographic origins of Montreal’s food sources within Quebec, exploring how different foodshed configurations affect multiple ecosystem services. Lead researcher: Graham Macdonald.

  • Quantifying the foodshed: A systematic review of urban food flow and local food self-sufficiency research. Environmental Research Letters, 2021. See paper
  • Diverse adaptation strategies helped local food producers cope with initial challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic: Lessons from Québec, Canada. Journal of Rural Studies, 2022. See paper.

The Role of Property Rights in Landscape Sustainability

Using the Adirondack Park landscape in New York State as a case study, this project is exploring how property rights influence the distribution of ecosystem service benefits across landscapes, and how we can use property rights to plan more sustainable landscapes. Lead researcher: Marie Dade.

  • Property rights play a pivotal role in the distribution of ecosystem services among beneficiaries among beneficiaries.Ecosystems and People, 2022. See open access paper.

Landscape Dependence among Globally Marginalized Populations

Pooling together data collected from McGill researchers, the Poverty & Environment Network (PEN), and eight European projects, this project provides the most comprehensive global assessment of landscape dependence ever assembled. Lead researcher: Brian Robinson.

  • Rural-urban connectivity and agricultural land management across the Global South. Global Environmental Change, 2020. Open access. See open access paper
  • Who is Vulnerable to Ecosystem Service Change? Reconciling Locally Disaggregated Ecosystem Service Supply and Demand. Ecological Economics, 2019. See paper
  • Disaggregating livelihood dependence on ecosystem services to inform land management. Ecosystem Services, 2019. See paper
  • Time and space catch up with restoration programs that ignore ecosystem service trade-offs. Science Advances, 2021. Read more.

Trade and Ecosystem Services (Landscape Scholars Project)

The Landscapes Scholars cohort is creating a framework for identifying and analyzing the ecosystem services embodied in food commodity value chains and applying this framework to case studies in the USA, Central America and Tanzania.

  • Building capacity through interdisciplinary graduate collaboration. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2020. See paper

Pitch or Enrich

The Pitch & Enrich event invited McGill researchers to pitch novel, high risk/high reward ideas and have them enriched through the feedback of others in the audience. Three projects received subsequent funding from the Landscapes theme as a result:

Groundwater Supply and Demand in Sub-Saharan Africa. Project lead: Aurélie Harou, Department of Natural Resource Sciences.

Mennonite Land Use History and Landscape Sustainability in Latin America. Project lead: Yann le Polain de Waroux, Department of Geography.

  • Pious pioneers: the expansion of mennonite colonies in Latin America. Journal of Land Use Science, 2020. See paper

Are Salt Marshes Within Watersheds Dominated by Urban or Agricultural Landscapes Sustainable? Project lead: Nagissa Mahmoudi, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences


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