Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category

©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic on canvas 8 X 8 in

Another week gone by and we are definitely getting closer to spring and summer! How great is that!!

In my last blog I mentioned that the group Artist for Conservation, which I am a part of, has decided to concentrate its effort in 2018 in bringing to light  endangered bird species, so we decided to get involved in our first international collaborative mural project. This installation will comprise the world’s 678 endangered species of birds and will be the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress to be held in Vancouver in August 2018.

This is the second species of birds I signed up to do: the Collared laughingthrush(Trochalopteron yersini), which is can be found only on the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam and is on the IUCN red list of endangered species since 2000.

It is a striking colourful bird that features a black hood with a silver ear patch and measures between 26 and 28 cm (10-11 inches). It had already been on the threatened and vulnerable species list since 1988.

There seems to be information missing when it comes to this bird’s habits. Flocks are small, comprising of only 4-8 individuals. It is a resident of “dense undergrowth of primary and evergreen forest, secondary growth and scrub bordering forest” according to IUCN, and occupies a narrow range for altitude (between 1,500 and 2,440 m).

The population has been declining due to habitat loss and degradation but there is a lack of survey in the area to help define the extent of it.

According to IUCN, there has been a government resettlement program that has greatly increased human pressure on the Da Lat plateau. Forest degradation and fragmentation have increased because of it, logging, shifting agriculture, fuel wood collection and charcoal production being the main culprits. In certain areas, all land below 1,500 m is now logged or under cultivation. Higher up, the broadleaf evergreen forest is being cleared for coffee plantations in the “Da Nhim Watershed Protection forest”.

There are conservation efforts underway in Chu Yang Sin and Bi Doup Nui Ba National Parks since 1986, but not nearly enough to ascertain the survival of this beautiful bird since there currently are no real protective measures.

Reference: http://www.iucnredlist.org

To find out more about Collared Laughingtrush click here

For more details on this mural project, click  here

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Banasura laughingtrush
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 8 X 8 in

Today I received the newsletter from David Suzuki.


Here we are complaining about our government but in this week’s budget, the government of Canada has demonstrated its commitment to the environment and doing something to protect endangered species and the planet and I am very proud of this.


They decided to invest $1.3 billion over the next five years to protect nature, provide financial investments for new parks, protected areas and science to make sure all of this is done properly.

Here are some of the budget highlights provided in the newsletter:

  • $1 billion over five years to make proposed changes to Canada’s environmental assessment laws.
  • An additional $172.6 million over three years to improve access to clean and safe drinking water on First Nations’ reserves.
  • $167.4 million over five years to better protect, preserve and recover endangered whale species in Canada.
  • $20 million over five years to assess the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change measures and identify best practices.
  • $22 million to renew the Sustainable Aquaculture Program for two years in support of an improved regulatory system. Renewal must include a focus on the environmental performance of Canada’s aquaculture sector.
  • Significant investments in scientific research.


This is here. In other parts of the world, we see decreased biodiversity everywhere we look. In order to bring highlight to endangered bird species, the group Artists For Conservation, to which I belong to, has decided to get involved in its first international collaborative mural project. As I mentioned in a previous blog , the installation which will comprise the world’s 678 endangered species of birds, will be  the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress to be held in Vancouver in August 2018. The original artwork will then go on an international tour to select cultural/scientific venues.

Here is one of the birds I signed up to do: the Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni) which is endemic to Southern India and is on the IUCN red list of threatened species since 2016.


Trochalopteron jerdoni is restricted to high elevations in the limited districts of Wayanad (Kerala) and Coorg (Karnataka). Although it can be found in several localities, the species is severely fragmented and has probably gone extinct at a few locations  according to a 2012 research by Praveen J. and Nameer. “The largest sub-population is found at Vellarimala-Chembra and this likely numbers a little more than 250 mature individuals”  (Praveen J. 2016). The population is estimated to be between 250 –2500 individuals divided in 2 to 5 sub-populations, but no recent assessment is available.


The main problem the species face is the large-scale conversion of forest into plantations, reservoirs, crops and human settlements. Commercial plantations of tea, Eucalyptus and Acacia have been increasing in area.


Since Banasura is thought to be a sedentary resident that inhabits dense undergrowth and moist, shady lower storey vegetation of evergreen and semi-evergreen forest, densely wooded ravines, hollows and forest edge, the fact that 47% of evergreen/semi-evergreen forest was lost in the Kerala portion of the Western Ghats between 1961 and 1988, while there were increases in plantation and deciduous forest is a major threat. The indiscriminate use of inorganic pesticides might also be affecting its survival.


To find out more about Banasura Laughingtrush click here


For more details on this mural project, click  here


To find out more about the David Suzuki Foundation: Go to: https://davidsuzuki.org/


Ref: Praveen J. and Nameer, P.O. 2012. Strophocincla Laughingthrushes of South India: a case for allopatric speciation and impact on their conservation. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 109: 46-52.


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“Congratulations on being awarded Active Status with the Federation of Canadian Artists based on the evaluation of work recently submitted for jury. Congratulations!

You are now an Active member of the largest non-profit visual arts organization in British Columbia.”

I received this e-mail during the week before Christmas when activities were at a maximum, no time to read it before the Saturday after.


I am very excited to have made it as an active member of this prestigious association! This is opening new doors to be explored in 2018. The Federation of Canadian Artists has 2700 members across Canada.


A fun and worthy project I am getting involved in is the Silent Skies Collaborative Mural Project. This Artists For Conservation’s first international collaborative mural project will feature all 678 endangered species of birds of the world. The installation will be the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress that will take place in Vancouver from August 19th to 26th. The original artwork will then go on an international tour to select cultural/scientific venues.


I signed up to paint two species of birds: the Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni), endemic to Southern India and the Collared laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini), endemic to the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam. Both birds are endangered because of degradation and fragmentation of their habitat. All canvases will be sized 8 X 8 inches. For more details on this mural project, click   here



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A simple winter morning, magnificent in all its beauty!



Can we really speak of simplicity when all this complexity is in front of our eyes?

What would we be without nature and its biodiversity?  Nothing

We need nature but she does not need us

When we’ll have destroyed it

She will slowly regenerate

But it will not be us or our descendants that will be enjoying it

Because when we will have annihilated her

Humanity will have perished

It is not too late

Let’s be conscious of our behaviours

And take action without delay!


©2016 words and photos Suzanne Belair


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Nénuphars No. 4 ©2012 Suzanne Bélair Huile sur toile 18 X 24

Nénuphars No. 4
©2012 Suzanne Bélair
Huile sur toile 18 X 24

The water lilies’ flower is solitary on a stem that gently reaches to the water’s surface. This aquatic plant has curved floating leaves. Those from the lake carry very fragrant white flowers that I enjoyed painting different colors for that series.


Some people also like to cultivate  water lilies in water basins in their garden but I learned that one can also cultivate them in a pot or a bin without holes and thus decorate a terrace or a balcony.


Since it is a very rustic perennial, there is no concern for maintenance, it requires almost none and will settle durably in your basin or pot as long as a minimum of 4 inches of water is maintained and it gets 5 to 6 hours of sunlight per day.


The water lily is a plant originating from Europe and  America and the fact that it grows in water is a particularly interesting feature. Colors can vary according to the species, white, pink, red and yellow being most common but certain exotic species are blue.


In its natural environment or in a basin, one water lily can cover more than 10 sq ft.




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Fragile ©2015 Suzanne Bélair Oil on canvas   10 X 8 in

©2015 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 10 X 8 in

Just got back from a long morning walk. For those who are seeing this blog for the 1st time, let me tell you this is not an easy feat when you are recovering from a broken knee cap and the system of tendons and nerves around it refuse to heal.

Anyhow, this morning’s weather made it worth my while. With the sun shining and the air finally getting a bit warmer, my ears picked up the sound of crows croaking the way they like to, when they know spring is here. I felt a bubble of joy rise within me.

I certainly have not painted or written as much as I like since the accident. It made me realise my limitations. But less does not mean none even if I have not posted many new works lately.

This one is particularly interesting in that it is about a rare flower and it was a commissioned work.

Arethusa (Arethusa bulbosa) commonly called Dragon’s mouth, is a small orchid measuring between 10 and 35 cm (4 to 14 in) in height. It is made up of one stem only with one solitary fragrant flower.  The plant has only one leaf that shows up only after the blooming period which occurs around end of may/beginning of June and until July. The flower itself measures between 3 and 6 cm (1 to 2.3 inches).

Like all orchids, the flower is made up of 2 sepals et 3 petals located at the top of the flower. The colour of this small flower is generally pick or magenta but can sometimes be white or bluish. The 2 top petals form a hood situated over the label that is larger, has a furry look, is striped with purple and yellow and turns towards the ground. Arethusa does not flower each year since it can go into dormancy.

A. bulbosa lives in bogs where minerals and nutriments are plentiful and as all orchids, it is very sensible to its environment. The area covered by peat lands has been shrinking constantly due to the exploitation of peat moss and the filling of marsh lands to allow house and roads construction. The habitat of the arethusa is slowly disappearing and the plant is getting scarcer. In 2000, it was classified as “susceptible of being designated threatened or vulnerable species” in Quebec, while it still had an “undefined status” in Canada. According to certain sites, it is considered as a species “in danger”, at risk, vulnerable and very rare in Quebec. However, after verification with the Quebec government list for vulnerable species or species susceptible of being designated threatened or vulnerable, and updated in 2013, arethusa is no longer included. The government removed it in June 2013.

Rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides) and Tuberous grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus) are two other orchids considered related species and that live in the same habitat as A. bulbosa . To add to the loss of natural habitat, pollination of arethusa has become more difficult as populations of bumblebees, its natural pollinator, have been declining. Vegetative propagation of arethusa is very slow.

Arethusa was observed in the municipality of Austin, Qc that chose the flower in 2014 as its floral emblem. This year, three visual representations of arethusa were assembled to display at city hall. The painting “Fragile” is now hanging in the city’s counsel room.


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I know we are buried in snow and we only have Christmas preparations on our mind at this time of the year. And with all that busyness, an important piece of good news slipped my attention.


Like a lot of people, I have been very concerned about the disappearance of bees. Did you know that experts estimate that one of every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators? Well, on November 25th, the government of Ontario became the first government body in all of North America to announce a plan to restrict the use of seeds (specifically corn and soybeans) treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. The plan is to put in place regulations with the goal of reducing the use of neonics by 80 per cent by the year 2017. Regulations should be finalized by July 2015. That is great news!


It seems like the government of Ontario has decided that it is time we look after bees so that they can continue to look after us. There is a growing movement to save bees and other pollinators. People are more and more aware of their usefulness and of the reasons why their populations are diminishing. It is encouraging that a first government in Canada wants to take steps to reverse the trend here.


Neonicotinoid pesticides or “Neonics”  are highly toxic to bees, and also have wide-ranging effects on other organisms, from impaired memory, to lower reproduction rates and increased susceptibility to disease. They may also harm the human brain, as well as our nervous and hormonal systems.


A massive study by an international group of independent scientists was conducted over four years with results published last June. They reviewed and analysed about 800 peer-reviewed studies on neonics and concluded that there is “clear evidence of harm sufficient to trigger regulatory action”. They also pointed out that there was serious risks not only to bees but to many other beneficial species like butterflies, birds and earthworms.


In the meantime, some research shows that neonics do not necessarily increase agricultural yields. So why are we still using it them?

Although Europe has moved ahead with a ban on three neonics in 2013 (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam),  these are still widely used and allowed in Canada, even if regulators have confirmed that their use on corn seeds is a contributing factor to bees’ decline in Ontario and Quebec.


In the case of clothianidin,  used to treat corn seeds and frequently detected in samples of dead bees, Canadian regulators even signed off on its re-approval last year just as their European counterparts were implementing a ban. None of that makes sense.


In the U.S., neonics are currently used on about 95% of corn and canola crops; the majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets, about half of all soybeans, as well as on the vast majority of fruit and vegetable crops, including apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes. Neonicotinoids are also applied to cereal grains, rice, nuts, and wine grapes. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid). Scary…


In Canada, the responsibility for pesticide regulation is shared between the federal and provincial governments, so either can listen and act. I hope Ontario’s decision will have a domino effect on all other provinces.


To find out more:








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