Species at Risk Act annual report for 2016: chapter 9

9 Monitoring

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) collects information on species at risk from its protected areas and through its migratory bird program. Federal funding programs administered by ECCC and, in some cases, co-managed by the department, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Parks Canada Agency (PCA) also support monitoring activities, including the Habitat Stewardship Program, the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk and the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund. Information from these initiatives, along with information from partner organizations and researchers, allows the tracking of progress toward meeting recovery goals.

Case study
Monitoring Red Knots across the Americas

Red Knot Photo: Yves Aubrey © Environment and Climate Change Canada
Red Knot / Photo: Yves Aubrey
© Environment and Climate Change Canada

The Red Knot (rufa subspecies) has declined dramatically in numbers and is now listed under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as endangered. The Red Knot flies from breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic to wintering grounds as far south as Tierra del Fuego, on the southern tip of South America; a return journey of over 25,000km. During spring migration, many rufa knots stop in Delaware Bay to feed on the rich and abundant eggs of the Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) to fatten in preparation for the final legs of their migration to the Arctic breeding grounds. The horseshoe crab fishery is now regulated, and quotas consider the needs of Red Knots. The rate of decline in the abundance of Red Knots has slowed in the last decade, but the population remains at a fraction of its former abundance.

Red Knots are monitored throughout their range by ECCC and international partners. Aerial surveys of the wintering sites in Tierra del Fuego have been carried out since the 1980s. The number of sites declined from about 67,500 in 1982, to a low of 9,800 in 2011, but appears to have stabilized recently. This large decline is also seen in the continent-wide results from surveys carried out by hundreds of skilled volunteer birders. These volunteer data also help identify important feeding areas of these birds on migration.

The hemisphere-spanning migration presents challenges for understanding threats to the species and ways to manage them. Scientists are now attaching small radio transmitters weighing less than a gram to the backs of Red Knots to monitor their movements and assess threats. A network of receivers, the Motus Wildlife Telemetry system, allows researchers to study the importance of different feeding sites along their routes and assess potential threats such as proposed wind-power developments. These and other tracking technologies are greatly helping biologists understand how migratory animals respond to conservation threats throughout their ranges and throughout the year.

Species at risk monitoring is ongoing within the PCA heritage areas network to assess the long-term condition of the ecosystems as well as the conservation status of species at risk. In 2016, the national database system that tracks the long term condition of species has been upgraded and will also enable the monitoring of activities related to the implementation of the multi-species action plans. The information obtained from monitoring activities are used to determine progress towards achieving both the population and distribution objectives and recovery measure goals as committed to in the multi-species action plans.

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