Christian Messier

Regular member
Applied Forest Ecology

Director of the Institute of Temperate Forest Sciences (ISFORT)
58, Rue Principale
Ripon, Qc, Canada, JOV 1V0
(819)595-3900 Ext 2903

Université du Québec en Outaouais
Department of Natural Sciences

Titulaire de la chaire CRSNG/Hydro-Québec sur le contrôle de la croissance des arbres
Université du Québec à Montréal
Département des sciences biologiques
141 Président-Kennedy
Montréal (Québec) H2X 3Y5
(514) 987-3000 Ext 4009

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  • Postdoctoral fellowship in forest ecology, 1992 (University of Helsinki)
  • Ph.D. in forest sciences, 1991 (University of British Columbia)
  • M.Sc. in forest sciences, 1986 (Université Laval)
  • B.Sc. in forest engineering, 1984 (Université Laval)


Christian Messier is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) since June 1991. His research focuses on the ecological and silvicultural factors that influence temperate and boreal forest ecosystem dynamics. Dr Messier holds the NSERC/Hydro-Quebec Chair on tree growth control. He was a member (and a co-leader from 1996 to 1999) of the Sustainable Forest Management network (SFMn) from 1995 to 2010. He is also the cofounder and an executive member of the Integrated Quebec Intensive Silviculture Network, a major project aimed at maximizing timber production on small areas. Finally, Dr Messier participated in the creation of the Centre for Forest Research (CFR) and was its director from its inception in 2006 to June 2010.


Study of functional relationships between forest cover and understory

Dr Messier’s investigations on this subject focus on the effects of forest cover change on the micro-environment and the acclimation of plant species growing understory. Examples of studies completed or underway include:

  • Characterizing the forest light environment necessary for the survival and growth of undesirable tree and shrub seedlings;
  • Evaluation of the effect of partial-cut harvesting on the regeneration of hardwood and coniferous seedlings, on undesirable vegetation, and on the growth of remaining trees;
  • The impact of plantation development on the dynamics and adaptation of understory vegetation.

Using simulation models to study growth and survival of forest trees

Dr Messier and his team intend to use and modify several existing models (LIGNUM, SORTIE and SELES) to better understand and predict the factors affecting forest ecosystems at varying scales: individual, stand and landscape. The knowledge gained is essential for sustainable forest management since it leads to the accurate prediction of future forest composition in relation to the type of harvesting method used. These models are developed for temperate deciduous forests and mixed boreal forests. The work is a collaboration with researchers from Finland, the U.S. and Canada.

Sustainable development

This more recent research theme differs from the others in that it expands beyond the narrow confines of scientific experimentation to address a global environmental problem which requires an appreciation of the philosophical, social, political and economic issues of forest management in Quebec. Dr Messier’s interventions as a forest ecologist are focused on promoting new ways of doing and thinking in the development of forest practices while maintaining the socio-economic contributions of people making a living off this natural resource. His research focuses on ecosystem management of Quebec forests. Finally, Dr Messier is studying how the principle of functional zoning (i.e. TRIAD or QUAD) can be applied to the sustainable development of forests. Currently, a trial using nearly one million hectares is under study in the Mauricie region.

Integrated Quebec Intensive Silviculture Network Project

The aim of this network is to study the ecological and biological foundations of the establishment of plantations of genetically-improved species to accelerate timber production. This could alleviate the undersupply of wood fibre caused by the ever-increasing demand by society. This project integrates our interdisciplinary knowledge (genetics, biotechnology, soil science, entomology, pathology, ecophysiology and forestry) to minimize the negative impacts of intensive production of wood fiber on biodiversity. This project is done in collaboration with the forest industry, regional forestry stakeholders, the Government of Quebec, the RC-SFM and the Canadian Forest Service.


NSERC/Hydro-Québec Chair on tree growth control

Trees are very present in Québec and Canada, both in the natural environment and in our towns and countryside where they embellish our lives, filter the air, reduce temperature variations, produce wood, fix carbon and provide habitat for many living organisms. These environmental and economic services provided by trees are exceedingly important for municipalities (e.g. cities of Montreal and Quebec) and other private and public organisations (e.g. ZéroCO2, the Integrated Quebec Intensive Silviculture Network and the International Society of Quebec Arboriculture) who promote tree use. Trees, however, are often in conflict with the human-built environment often breaking electrical distribution equipment. Trees, particularly those with expansive crowns, represent a significant risk in both the breaking of electrical distribution equipment and the safety of the public and of contractors who do maintenance. For the main Chair partner, Hydro-Quebec, the monetary losses incurred represent hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

To optimize intervention methods and to allow a more harmonious coexistence between trees and Hydro-Québec’s infrastructure, the Chair’s projects are grouped into 3 major complementary research themes.

  • Theme 1 : Understanding the dynamics of tree and tree crown growth in relation to physiology, morphology, architecture and environment: Bastien Lecigne (M.Sc.); Jorge Ramirez (Ph.D.)
  • Theme 2 : Studying the dynamics of tree biomechanical stability according to structural and biophysical conditions: Charles Nock (Post-doc)
  • Theme 3 : Developing models and algorithms to enable monitoring and prediction of tree growth based on the biophysical conditions found throughout Quebec: Jari Pertunnen (Post-doc)

Together, these studies will help with the integration of knowledge of ecophysiology of growth, biomechanics of tree stability, 3D models of individual tree growth and of dynamic and spatial modelling of communities and groups of trees in eastern Canada. The aims are (i) to test a series of scientific theoretical and applied hypotheses on the growth and development of trees and the factors contributing to their coexistence in complex stands, (ii) to optimize the interventions needed to control the woody vegetation along Hydro-Québec’s electrical distribution system, and (iii) to better plan tree crown development in inhabited areas. This project will develop, for both urban and rural areas, crown development strategies and methods of tree growth control which are better adapted, less intrusive, less costly and more efficient, therefore making them more socially acceptable.

The Chair’s research is carried out in collaboration with professors Sylvain Delagrange (UQO), Tanya Handa (UQAM), Eero Nikinmaa (University of Helsinki) and Juan Posada (Rosario Universidad) and researcher Alain Paquette (UQAM).

TRIAD Project

The TRIAD project is a pilot project that aims to provide a socially acceptable, economically viable and sustainable solution to forest management. Inaugurated in 2003, this project is part of the 2008-2013 development plan for the 890 000 ha Forest Management Unit 042-51 (FMU) in Mauricie. The current plan proposes that 11% of the territory be reserved for comprehensive conservation (mostly old-growth forest), 20% be reserved for forest production (intensive management including fast-growing plantations on 0,6% of the territory) and the remaining 69% be used for ecosystem management (Tittler et Messier, 2009) .

For several years many students and researchers have been involved in this project and the first results are beginning to be published. You will find on the CFR TRIAD website (under construction) more details and results on the major projects. The official website of the TRIAD project can be found here:

Sutton permanent plot

In the face of climate change, the fate of forest ecosystems is of particularly concern for Quebec because of their economical and ecological importance. The discipline of ecology, however, suffers currently from a lack of theoretical knowledge to predict ecosystem response to climate change. To compensate for this lack of knowledge, the next generation of climate change studies have to imperatively combine observations on large-scale climatic gradients with smaller-scale experiments (Dunne et al., 2004).

The permanent plot situated in the Green Mountains Ecological Reserve, near Sutton in the Eastern Townships, is located on an elevation gradient of 200 meters, which allows a transition from a sugar maple-yellow birch forest to a balsam fir-white birch forest. The migration of the sugar maple towards the balsam fir dominated forest is studied and consequently, it is essential to have detailed knowledge of the spatial dynamics of this species. A grid of 20 m by 20 m is being established to mark the 20 ha plot where all trees with a minimum 5-cm diameter at breast height will be mapped. The plots will include 25 environmental monitoring stations equipped with lysimeters, temperature sensors (at 1m from the ground and in the soil), soil moisture sensors, seed traps, insect’s pitfalls and 1 m² plots to count seedlings.

General objective

  • To better understand the factors determining migration of species and ecosystem functioning at the edge of their distribution range. In studying a forest ecosystem, fundamental knowledge will be acquired and will serve to improve our ecosystem management practices.

Specific objectives

  • To identify the factors that limit the migration of sugar maple and associated species in the boreal forest under the pressure of climate change by studying the factors that limit population growth of sugar maple at the edge of its distribution range and by taking into account the interaction of competition, predation and major biogeochemical cycles.
  • To produce data for a forest dynamics simulation model to estimate the rate of migration of sugar maple into fir stands and identifying critical elements that affect maple migration. The results will be critical in the development of a high-tech tool created to assist managers involved in forest management in Québec.

The research project is structured into four components that share a common methodology:

  • Part 1 : Patterns of biodiversity distribution.
    • Analysis of the co-distribution of detrivores Eric Harvey (M.Sc.)
    • Dynamics of understory vegetation
  • Part 2 : Population growth of sugar maple.
    • Dynamics of seedling recruitment Jean-Bastien Lambert(M.Sc.)
    • Seedling growth
    • Modeling of growth based on the local environment, soil and climate
  • Part 3 : Nutrient cycles
  • Part 4 : Modeling of migration rates using an individual tree-level model

The results of this research program will contribute to the modification of our forest ecosystem management practices. Forest resources in temperate and boreal biomes are of paramount economical and ecological importance. With this research project which combines empirical observations, experiments and modeling, we will have a better understanding of key elements that limit the ecosystem’s resilience to climate change. This information will be crucial for forest managers and managers of natural reserves and protected areas.

International Diversity Experiment Network with Trees (IDENT)

In 2009, the first plantation of the International Diversity Experiment Network with trees (IDENT) was established in the Montreal area. Two new plantations were established in the Spring of 2010 at Auclair, in Témiscouata, and in Minnesota. The network will be completed in 2011 with the addition of two more plantations in Europe. These experimental plantations are designed to test various hypotheses about the role of biodiversity in ecosystem functioning. To this end, the choice of species planted in each plot varies in relation to species diversity, origin of species (North American and European) and their functional traits. How does diversity influence the processes in tree communities? Is there complementarity in mixed processes? These are the two main questions explored by Cornelia Garbe and Alain Paquette within the context of this project. Annick St-Denis is currently developing her doctoral project to study biodiversity plantation with regards to suburban forest restoration.


The SORTIE model is a forest dynamics simulation model that is spatially explicit and process-based (Canham et Murphy 2009). SORTIE was initially developed to simulate forest succession in deciduous forests from north-eastern America (Pacala et al. 1993). This model is particularly appropriate for modeling forest dynamics in forests with a heterogeneous canopy (ex.: gaps). During the last few years, it has been adapted to others forest types and has been used to model the effect of partial cuts (Coates et al. 2003; Thorpe et al. 2010).

Mixed boreal forest
There is currently a project in the mixed boreal forest that aims to compare natural disturbance regimes with the traditional silvicultural system at the stand level in order to develop a silvicultural system that can be integrated to a mixed-forest management framework. The project also aims to assess its social acceptability by stakeholders. The approach uses three temporal scales (past, present and future) and three complementary methodological approaches (retrospective studies, silvicultural trials and stand-level modeling) to compare two major classes of secondary disturbances, both natural (epidemics, spruce budworm, and windthrow) and industrial (partial cuts). This project will provide a framework by which forestry practices and innovative management approaches will be developed for this region. Brian Harvey

Deciduous forest
A similar project is underway in the deciduous forest. The general objective is to provide guidelines for ecosystem management of sugar maple stands by evaluating and comparing the impact of silvicultural treatments on species composition and production using a “case study” approach in a specific region (Estrie). This project will include both fieldwork and modeling components. Fieldwork will be used to collect the data necessary to complete the calibration and evaluation of SORTIE for sugar maple stands from the Estrie region. The fieldwork was planned to generate tangible knowledge to be used by managers (independent of the modeling component), particularly by obtaining a better understanding of the effect of silvicultural treatments on regeneration and growth of residual trees. Marilou Beaudet


  • Alain Paquette examines the effects of biodiversity on forest ecosystems, in particular plantations, and on the role of trees in the urban and suburban environment.
  • Anil Ediriweera is interested in integrating complex concepts in the modeling of forest ecosystems and in the importance of such integration in the management of the boreal forest.
  • Annick St-Denis looks at the effects of herbaceous competition and predation on multi-species plantations in the restoration of brownfield land.
  • Bastien Lecigne investigates, in close collaboration with the tree management services of Hydro-Quebec and the City of Montreal, the architectural responses of trees under the electric distribution lines subject to preventative pruning.
  • Charles Nock is interested in the biomechanical stability of trees. He is also interested in anthropogenic effects (e.g. global change, silviculture) on the dynamics of boreal, mixed and tropical forests.
  • Cornelia Garbe examines the effects of diversity on processes in forest ecosystems. She wants to know if there exist elements of complementarity in the various communities, particularly at the root level.
  • Cynthia Patry is interested in the application of ecosystem management principles. In particular, the impact of change on the resilience of forest ecosystems and on the acceptability by stakeholders.
  • Élise Filotas is studying the forest as a complex system. She is trying to determine how it is possible to integrate some concepts such as hierarchy, unpredictability, self-organization and adaptation, in forest managing.
  • Isabelle Laforest-L. is interested by the functional role of soil (rhizosphere) and leaf (phyllosphere) microbial community in forestal ecosystems dynamics. Furthermore, she wishes to explore the factors facilitating urban tree's growth and survival.
  • Jean-Bastien Lambert is interested in the performance and survival of yellow birch seedlings as they relate to seedbeds in old growth and managed forests with a special focus on dead wood as an important structural element.
  • Jorge Ramirez is interested in the functional role of carbohydrate reserves in the growth dynamics of trees. He is also interested in the relationships between structural carbohydrates and non-structural carbohydrates components with functional plant traits and how these interactions vary between tropical and temperate zones.
  • Mario Buitrago is developing clear guidelines for foresters about soil preparation and their effect on the establishment of hybrid larch, an important species for TRIAD project in Mauricie.
  • Nathaly Guerrero is interested in the effects of tree diversity on roots decomposition. She is working in tree plantation and tropical forest located in Panama.
  • Rebecca Tittler is investigating the impacts of management scenarios on the natural landscape structure and the importance of the forest landscape structure as a source of wildlife habitat and ecosystem services in urban, suburban and agricultural areas.
  • Susy Domenicano is interested in the ecology and dynamics of tree roots with a special interest in plantations and agroforestry systems. She is presently working with a model to determine the impacts of climate change of agroforestry systems in Québec.

  • 8 october 2010 - Prix Acfas – Michel-Jurdant 2010 (Sciences de l'environnement) ;
  • October 3, 2006 – Canadian Forestry Scientific Achievement Award from the Canadian Institute of Forestry;
  • October 26, 2006 – Honorary Member of the Association of Quebec Biologists;
  • December 5, 2006 – Winner of the inaugural Networks of Centres of Excellence Chairs’ Award.


All publications are available on this page. You can also download an EndNote file or BibTeX file and then view it with the software JabRef .

Former Personnel

- Elena Hidalgo Gómez (Stage 2017) - Virginie-Arielle Angers (Postdoc 2016) - Alain Paquette (Prof. de rech. 2016) - Virginie-Arielle Angers (Prof. de rech. 2016) - Noémie Lemaire (Stage 2016) - Aitor Améztegui (Postdoc 2015) - Rebecca Tittler (Postdoc 2015) - Rebecca Tittler (Prof. de rech. 2015) - Charles Nock (Postdoc 2014) - Mahbubul Alam (Postdoc 2014) - Olivier Taugourdeau (Postdoc 2014) - Amélie Goulet (Stage 2014) - Ernestine de Roland Razanajafy (Stage 2014) - Katy Lavoie (Stage 2014) - Maria Alejandra Chadid (Stage 2014) - Raphaëlle Frechon (Stage 2014) - Suzie Dubuc (Stage 2014) - David Rivest (Postdoc 2013) - Dylan James Craven (Postdoc 2013) - François Girard (Postdoc 2013) - Virginie-Arielle Angers (Postdoc 2013) - Élise Filotas (Postdoc 2013) - Sara Bastien-Henri (Prof. de rech. 2013) - Alice Angelini (Stage 2013) - Alain Paquette (Postdoc 2012) - Camille Lebel (Stage 2012) - Carine Côté-Germain (Stage 2012) - David Andres Herrera Ramirez (Stage 2012) - Dylan James Craven (Stage 2012) - Evick Mestre (Stage 2012) - Florian Xenard (Stage 2012) - Kristina Milllett (Stage 2012) - Laura Nikinmaa (Stage 2012) - Laura Williams (Stage 2012) - Lucie Chaboisson (Stage 2012) - Matthias Schwetterlé (Stage 2012) - Olivier Lafontaine (Stage 2012) - Santiago Martín Alcón (Stage 2012) - Sebastian Vilalenche (Stage 2012) - Sergio Martínez Ruiz (Stage 2012) - Tomona Morita (Stage 2012) - Xavier Bastien-Henri (Stage 2012) - Émilie Rousselle (Stage 2012) - Chelsea Archambault (Tech. 2012) - François Hébert (Postdoc 2011) - Jari Perttunen (Postdoc 2011) - Susy Domenicano (Prof. de rech. 2011) - Chantal Cloutier (Stage 2011) - Christophe Jenkins (Stage 2011) - Kate English (Stage 2011) - Kim Bannon (Stage 2011) - Nathan Probst (Stage 2011) - Paloma Ruiz Beneto (Stage 2011) - Peter Gaucher (Stage 2011) - Sophie Carpentier (Stage 2011) - Thomas André (Stage 2011) - Yannick Deschambault (Stage 2011) - Alain Paquette (Postdoc 2010) - Frédéric Boivin (Prof. de rech. 2010) - Marilou Beaudet (Prof. de rech. 2010) - Aitor Améztegui (Stage 2010) - Antoine Roux (Stage 2010) - Gabrielle Parent (Stage 2010) - Ilona Lehtokoski (Stage 2010) - Elhadji Malick Diallo (Tech. 2010) - Mario Buitrago (Tech. 2010) - Matthew Follett (Tech. 2010) - Bastien Lecigne (Stage 2009) - Jean-Gabriel Soulières-Jasmin (Stage 2009) - Loïc Munier (Stage 2009) - Philippe Roux (Stage 2009) - Anne-Geneviève Poirier (Tech. 2009) - Maxime Tremblay (Tech. 2009) - Éric Harvey (Tech. 2009) - Alain Paquette (Postdoc 2008) - Michael Papaik (Postdoc 2008) - Julie Poulin (Prof. de rech. 2008) - Ève Lauzon (Prof. de rech. 2008) - Laurent Torres (Stage 2008) - Marilyne Robidoux (Stage 2008) - Héloïse Rheault (Postdoc 2007) - Juan Posada (Postdoc 2007) - Lluis Coll (Postdoc 2006)

Former Students

Director - Jorge Ramirez (Ph.D. 2017) - Kevin Solarik (Ph.D. 2017) - Marc-Olivier Martin-Guay (M.Sc. 2017) - Annick St-Denis (Ph.D. 2016) - Melanie McCavour (Ph.D. 2016) - Matthew Follett (M.Sc. 2016) - Sophie Carpentier (M.Sc. 2015) - Cornelia Garbe (Ph.D. 2014) - Cynthia Patry (Ph.D. 2014) - Mario Buitrago (M.Sc. 2014) - Isabelle Witté (Ph.D. 2012) - Jean-Bastien Lambert (M.Sc. 2012) - Elhadji Malick Diallo (M.Sc. 2011) - Kim Bannon (M.Sc. 2011) - Frédéric Boivin (M.Sc. 2010) - Ian Seiferling (M.Sc. 2010) - Marie-Ève Chaume (M.Sc. 2010) - Catherine Malo (M.Sc. 2009) - Henrik Hartmann (Ph.D. 2008) - Sara Bastien-Henri (M.Sc. 2008) - Dodick Gasser (Ph.D. 2007) - Dominique Gravel (Ph.D. 2007) - Ronald Charles Drever (Ph.D. 2007) - Amélie Poitras-Larivière (M.Sc. 2007) - Julien Fortier (M.Sc. 2007) - Pascal Côté (M.Sc. 2007) - Lionel Humbert (M.Sc. 2006) - Marie-Lou Lefrançois (M.Sc. 2006) - Virginie-Arielle Angers (M.Sc. 2004)
Co-Director - Alexandre Collin (Ph.D. 2017) - Isabelle Laforest-Lapointe (Ph.D. 2017) - Chelsea Archambault (M.Sc. 2015) - Nathaly Guerrero (M.Sc. 2013) - Bastien Lecigne (M.Sc. 2012) - Sandrine Gautier-Ethier (M.Sc. 2012) - Simon Bilodeau-Gauthier (Ph.D. 2011) - Kati Berninger (Ph.D. 2009) - Isabelle Aubin (Ph.D. 2008) - Simon Bilodeau-Gauthier (M.Sc. 2007) - Susy Domenicano (M.Sc. 2006)

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