Wild Species 2015: section 4

Section 4 – Conclusion

This report represents a huge achievement by summarizing the general status assessments of a large number and variety of wild species occurring in Canada. The assessments inform on the conservation status of the species, and also inform on the level of knowledge we have on these species.

Proportion of secure species

In total, 29 848 species have been assessed in this report (Figure 38). The total number of species found in each province, territory, and ocean region varies considerably. Among the taxonomic groups assessed, the most species-rich regions are Ontario (15 858 species), British Columbia (14 838 species) and Quebec (14 341 species).

Many species are secure. We present two calculations of the percentage of species that are apparently secure or secure in Canada. The first calculation includes all species assessed and indicates that 43% of species are apparently secure or secure. However, the percentage of species apparently secure or secure is low because of the high proportion of unrankable or unranked species. The second calculation includes only the numerical ranks (N1 to N5). This second calculation allows concentrating only on the species that are currently occurring in Canada and for which we know that the conservation status is between critically imperiled and secure. This calculation indicates that 80% of the species are apparently secure or secure at the national level in Canada. Compared to the previous Wild Speciesreports, this represents the highest percentage (Table 9). The differences are mainly explained by the increase in the number of taxonomic groups assessed in each report. For example, several lesser-known taxonomic groups were added. For these lesser-known taxonomic groups, we are often able to identify first the species that are widespread and secure, and then there is sometimes not enough information to assign the more at risk conservation status ranks for the other species.

Figure 38. General status of all species assessed in the Wild Species 2015 report.
Bar graph (see long description below)
Long description for figure 38

Figure 38 shows the general status of all species assessed in the Wild Species 2015 report. The bar graph shows the number of species total ranked presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, imperiled, vulnerable, apparently secure, secure, unrankable, unranked and not applicable in Canada, each province and territory and the 4 oceanic regions. Of the 29848 species occurring in Canada, 45 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 80 as Possibly Extirpated, 718 as Critically Imperiled, 816 as Imperiled, 1586 as Vulnerable, 4846 as Apparently Secure, 7987 as Secure, 8026 as Unrankable, 2661 as Unranked, and 3083 as Not Applicable. Of the 5740 species occurring in Yukon, 15 were ranked as Possibly Extirpated, 138 as Critically Imperiled, 321 as Imperiled, 485 as Vulnerable, 1327 as Apparently Secure, 863 as Secure, 1425 as Unrankable, 580 as Unranked, and 586 as Not Applicable. Of the 5383 species occurring in Northwest Territories, 51 were ranked as Critically Imperiled, 230 as Imperiled, 297 as Vulnerable, 15236 as Apparently Secure, 233 as Secure, 2605 as Unrankable, 223 as Unranked, and 221 as Not Applicable. Of the 2297 species occurring in Nunavut, 1 was ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 1 as Possibly Extirpated, 54 as Critically Imperiled, 131 as Imperiled, 277 as Vulnerable, 342 as Apparently Secure, 132 as Secure, 1147 as Unrankable, 53 as Unranked, and 159 as Not Applicable. Of the 14838 species occurring in British Columbia, 14 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 34 as Possibly Extirpated, 421 as Critically Imperiled, 602 as Imperiled, 1401 as Vulnerable, 3572 as Apparently Secure, 2108 as Secure, 3513 as Unrankable, 1554 as Unranked, and 1619 as Not Applicable. Of the 11321 species occurring in Alberta, 5 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 17 as Possibly Extirpated, 388 as Critically Imperiled, 536 as Imperiled, 1966 as Vulnerable, 2456 as Apparently Secure, 1041 as Secure, 2921 as Unrankable, 1200 as Unranked, and 791 as Not Applicable. Of the 8759 species occurring in Saskatchewan, 11 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 34 as Possibly Extirpated, 316 as Critically Imperiled, 292 as Imperiled, 933 as Vulnerable, 2054 as Apparently Secure, 756 as Secure, 2793 as Unrankable, 777 as Unranked, and 793 as Not Applicable. Of the 9983 species occurring in Manitoba, 11 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 21 as Possibly Extirpated, 322 as Critically Imperiled, 304 as Imperiled, 1345 as Vulnerable, 1740 as Apparently Secure, 857 as Secure, 3387 as Unrankable, 1071 as Unranked, and 925 as Not Applicable. Of the 15858 species occurring in Ontario, 40 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 111 as Possibly Extirpated, 556 as Critically Imperiled, 605 as Imperiled, 916 as Vulnerable, 3718 as Apparently Secure, 1793 as Secure, 4433 as Unrankable, 1599 as Unranked, and 2087 as Not Applicable. Of the 14341 species occurring in Quebec, 19 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 142 as Possibly Extirpated, 448 as Critically Imperiled, 429 as Imperiled, 1029 as Vulnerable, 2162 as Apparently Secure, 1848 as Secure, 2017 as Unrankable, 4467 as Unranked, and 1780 as Not Applicable. Of the 9318 species occurring in New Brunswick, 13 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 24 as Possibly Extirpated, 369 as Critically Imperiled, 332 as Imperiled, 630 as Vulnerable, 1735 as Apparently Secure, 1568 as Secure, 2799 as Unrankable, 620 as Unranked, and 1228 as Not Applicable. Of the 9086 species occurring in Nova Scotia, 9 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 15 as Possibly Extirpated, 395 as Critically Imperiled, 322 as Imperiled, 419 as Vulnerable, 825 as Apparently Secure, 1450 as Secure, 3412 as Unrankable, 820 as Unranked, and 1419 as Not Applicable. Of the 4207 species occurring in Prince Edward Island, 7 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 16 as Possibly Extirpated, 317 as Critically Imperiled, 195 as Imperiled, 140 as Vulnerable, 356 as Apparently Secure, 529 as Secure, 1568 as Unrankable, 249 as Unranked, and 830 as Not Applicable. Of the 3469 species occurring in Labrador, 2 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 8 as Possibly Extirpated, 108 as Critically Imperiled, 325 as Imperiled, 399 as Vulnerable, 467 as Apparently Secure, 275 as Secure, 1238 as Unrankable, 389 as Unranked, and 258 as Not Applicable. Of the 5625 species occurring in Newfoundland, 1 was ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 19 as Possibly Extirpated, 178 as Critically Imperiled, 392 as Imperiled, 568 as Vulnerable, 844 as Apparently Secure, 532 as Secure, 1584 as Unrankable, 592 as Unranked, and 915 as Not Applicable. Of the 1053 species occurring in the Pacific Ocean region, 11 were ranked as Critically Imperiled, 10 as Imperiled, 94 as Vulnerable, 30 as Apparently Secure, 219 as Secure, 571 as Unrankable, 2 as Unranked, and 116 as Not Applicable. Of the 147 species occurring in the Western Arctic Ocean region, 1 was ranked as Critically Imperiled, 1 as Imperiled, 3 as Vulnerable, 6 as Apparently Secure, 12 as Secure, 110 as Unrankable, 1 as Unranked, and 13 as Not Applicable. Of the 482 species occurring in the Eastern Arctic Ocean region, 1 was ranked as Critically Imperiled, 5 as Imperiled, 11 as Vulnerable, 5 as Apparently Secure, 49 as Secure, 374 as Unrankable, 1 as Unranked, and 36 as Not Applicable. Of the 1239 species occurring in the Atlantic Ocean region, 3 were ranked as Presumed Extirpated, 10 as Critically Imperiled, 11 as Imperiled, 38 as Vulnerable, 24 as Apparently Secure, 392 as Secure, 398 as Unrankable, 7 as Unranked, and 356 as Not Applicable.

 

Table 9. Proportion of species that are apparently secure or secure in the reports of the Wild Species series.
Wild Species report Number of species assessed Proportion of apparently secure or secure (all species) Proportion of apparently secure or secure (numerical ranks only)
2000 1670 59% 74%
2005 7732 46% 70%
2010 11 950 55% 77%
2015 29 848 43% 80%

The most imperiled species

In this report, a total of 1659 species have been ranked as presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled at the national level in Canada. The taxonomic groups that have the most of these species are the vascular plants, followed by bryophytes, beetles, macrolichens, and moths and butterflies.

On the 1659 species, 1032 species have only a small part of their range in Canada (10% or less) and 498 are intermediary (from 11% to 74%). However, 129 species have 75% or more of their range in Canada. Among those, 99 species are thought to be endemic to Canada. Vascular plants, beetles and moths and butterflies are the taxonomic groups that have the most endemic species ranked as presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled at the national level in Canada. The list of all the scientific names of these species can be found in the database of the report.

Helping COSEWIC to identify priority species

The priority scores determined in this report by the National General Status Working Group can help COSEWIC to identify which species could be assessed in details. Of the 1659 species ranked as presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled at the national level in Canada, 296 species have the highest priority scores (between 1 and 5). Some of these species have already been assessed in details by COSEWIC (Table 10). COSEWIC has assessed 65 species within the highest priority scores. The other species not included in this table and assessed by COSEWIC are subspecies or species that are more secure or data deficient.

COSEWIC has 10 subcommittees that focus on specific groups of species: mosses and lichens, vascular plants, molluscs, arthropods, marine fishes, freshwater fishes, amphibians and reptiles, birds, marine mammals, and terrestrial mammals. When we separate the 1659 species by each subcommittee, we see that three subcommittees (vascular plants, arthropods, and mosses and lichens) deal with most of the species that are ranked as presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled at the national level in Canada (Figure 39).

Table 10. Priority score of species ranked as presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled at the national level in Canada.
Priority
score
Number
of species
Number of species assessed
by COSEWIC
1 (highest) 37 11
2 27 6
3 30 6
4 80 17
5 122 25
6 87 16
7 565 134
8 261 18
9 224 57
10 (lower) 226 20
Total 1659 310

 

Figure 39. Proportion of species ranked by the National General Status Working Group as presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled at the national level in Canada by each subcommittee of COSEWIC.
Pie chart (see long description below)
Long description for figure 39

Figure 39 shows the number of species in a pie chart ranked by the National General Status Working Group as presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled at the national level in Canada by each subcommittee of COSEWIC. The proportions of species ranked presumed extirpated, possibly extirpated, critically imperiled, and imperiled were: 42 % of vascular plants, 4% of molluscs, 29% of arthropods, 1% of marine fishes, 1% of freshwater fishes, 1% of amphibians and reptiles, 3% of birds, 0% of marine mammals, 1 % of terrestrial mammals and 18 % of mosses and lichens.

Exotic species

One of the issues highlighted in this report is the large number of non-native species in Canada. Exotic species are species that have been moved beyond their natural range as a result of human activity. Exotic species have thus been introduced to Canada, both deliberately and accidentally, from around the world. In addition, exotic species can also include native species that have been moved from regions of the country in which they traditionally occur, to regions in which they are not naturally found (to another province or territory for example). Whether from abroad, or from a different part of Canada, exotic species can cause problems for native species in a variety of ways, including competition for space and resources, predation, hybridization and introduction of new diseases.

In the ranking system of NatureServe, exotic species are included in the rank not applicable (NA). The National General Status Working Group intentionally included an additional column in the database to identify which of the not applicable species are exotic, so that we are able to track them. In this report, of the 29 848 species assessed, a total of 2394 species were exotic at the national level in Canada. Most of the exotic species were vascular plants (1315 species), representing 55% of all exotic species assessed in the report. Vascular plants have the highest proportion of exotic species of any other groups covered in this report: 25% of species of vascular plants established in the wild in Canada are exotic. Other taxonomic groups with many exotic species were the beetles (624 species) and the moths and butterflies (191 species). The list of all the scientific names of these exotic species can be found in the database of the report.

Governments in Canada are collaborating and have developed a national strategy on exotic species, called An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada. This national strategy plays an important role in preventing new invasions, detecting and responding to new invasive alien species and in managing established invasive alien species through eradication, containment and control. The species that are ranked as exotic by the National General Status Working Group in the Wild Species reports could be used in this strategy. The Wild Species reports represent one of the most comprehensive sources of information to identify which exotic species are present in Canada. The strategy can use the Wild Species reports to do further analysis on the impact these exotic species have on our ecosystems.

Lack of knowledge

The knowledge on species in Canada is variable. For example, we generally have more information on the vertebrates, which include species such as birds, mammal, and amphibians, and we generally have less information on the invertebrates, which include species such as insects, spiders, corals, and others. These lesser-known taxonomic groups are important in the program on the General Status of Species in Canada, since they represent the majority of species.

In this report, of the total 29 848 species assessed, 10 687 species were ranked as unrankable or unranked at the national level because of a lack of knowledge. The taxonomic groups that had the highest number of unrankable or unranked species were the beetles (3624 species) and the moths and butterflies (3015 species). However, the taxonomic groups that were the most unknown and had the highest proportion of species ranked as unrankable or unranked at the national level were the sponges, mayflies, selected macrofungi, and lacewings.

Moreover, some taxonomic groups also currently have a level of knowledge too low to be considered for inclusion in the Wild Species reports. For example, there are many groups of invertebrates for which we are unable to build a species list in Canada. The lists of species represent the first step to enable the assessment of the conservation status. We hope that more information will become available for those groups as well. Without information on the status of these species, it is difficult to judge how the human uses affect the ecosystems and species. As the National General Status Working Group assesses species groups which are not well-known or not well-studied in Canada, the total proportion of species that receive ranks of unrankable or unranked is likely to rise. One purpose of these reports is to encourage more information to be collected on species currently ranked as unrankable or unranked.

Migratory species

The conservation of migratory species is more complex because the threats they face are more diverse and do not originate only from Canada. For example, when Canadian birds migrate south to overwinter in other countries, they can face different threats both during the migration and at the place where they overwinter. Within Canada, the use of the breeding, non-breeding, and migrant qualifiers enable to convey the complete status of these species, and help to determine if the threats are applicable to the entire species or only to a specific part of the species. The ranks can thus flag the need to work with international partners to maintain these species in Canada.

In this report, 578 migratory species were assessed (Table 11). The majority are birds (71%) and fishes (19%). There are three species that are presumed extirpated, 27 species that are critically imperiled, 20 species that are imperiled, 68 species that are vulnerable, 77 species that are apparently secure, 344 species that are secure, 38 species that are unrankable, and one species that is unranked.

Table 11. Number of migratory species assessed in the Wild Species 2015 report.
Taxonomic group Number of
migratory species
Dragonflies and damselflies 4
Moths and butterflies 16
Fishes 112
Reptiles 4
Birds 412
Mammals 30
Total 578

Trends of species

One of the important achievements of this report is to update the status assessments of taxonomic groups that were included in previous Wild Species reports. Among the taxonomic groups that were reassessed in this report, a total of 3301 species had a change in their national rank. In total, 449 species had an increased level of risk, 414 species had a reduced level of risk, and 1382 species were changed from or to ranks U, NR, NA. Also, 596 species have been added to the list and 461 have been deleted from the list. Compared to the previous Wild Species reports, a larger proportion of species have been changed from or to ranks U, NR, NA (Table 12).

In this report, a total of 163 changes were due to a biological change in the population size, distribution, or threats of the species, 39 changes were due to a new COSEWIC assessment, 212 changes were due to an error in previous rank, 1638 changes were due to an improved knowledge of the species, 901 changes were due to a procedural change, and 348 changes were due to a taxonomic change. Compared to the previous Wild Species reports, the procedural changes occupied a larger proportion of the changes in 2015, mainly due to the change from the previous General Status ranking system to the ranking system of NatureServe and the use of the rank calculator (Table 13). Except for the Wild Species 2005 report, the most important reason for changes is an improved knowledge of the species, and this reason accounted for about half of all the changes observed in the national ranks.

Table 12. Description of the changes in the reports of the Wild Species series. There was no change in 2000 since it was the first report.
Description Wild Species 2005 Wild Species 2010 Wild Species 2015
Increased level of risk 69 95 449
Reduced level of risk 52 166 414
Changed from or to ranks U, NR, NA 47 102 1382
New species 33 162 595
Deleted species 35 101 461
Total 236 626 3301

 

Table 13. Reasons for changes in the reports of the Wild Species series. There was no change in 2000 since it was the first report.
Reason Wild Species 2005 Wild Species 2010 Wild Species 2015
Biological change in the population size, distribution, or threats of the species 11 63 163
New COSEWIC assessment 58 64 39
Error in previous rank 0 10 212
Improved knowledge of the species 29 343 1638
Procedural change 71 16 901
Taxonomic change 14 130 348
Not available 53 - -
Total 236 626 3301

Common names

The common names represent an important tool to communicate the diversity of species in Canada. Common names were developed and standardized for several taxonomic groups (Table 14). In the next Wild Species reports, more common names will be developed.

Table 14. Number of common names included in the database of the Wild Species 2015 report.
Taxonomic group Number of species Number of English common names Number of French common names
Selected macrofungi 87 87 87
Macrolichens 857 0 0
Bryophytes 1375 0 0
Vascular plants 5211 5151 5141
Sponges 212 212 212
Corals 190 190 190
Freshwater bivalves 93 0 0
Terrestrial and freshwater snails and slugs 326 0 0
Spiders 1399 1399 1399
Mayflies 342 342 342
Dragonflies and damselflies 213 213 0
Stoneflies 293 293 293
Grasshoppers and relatives 269 269 269
Lacewings 101 101 101
Beetles 7963 0 0
Ants 212 212 0
Bees 805 805 805
Yellowjacket wasps 101 0 0
Caddisflies 688 688 688
Moths and butterflies 5257 0 0
Scorpionflies 25 25 25
Black flies 160 160 160
Mosquitoes 80 80 80
Horse flies 144 144 144
Bee flies 116 116 116
Flower flies 524 0 524
Decapods 316 316 316
Sea cucumbers 75 75 75
Sea urchins 38 38 38
Fishes 1379 0 0
Amphibians 48 48 21
Reptiles 49 49 18
Birds 678 674 674
Mammals 222 222 93
Total 29848 11909 11811

Next steps

Reports from the Wild Species series are the main product of an ongoing national program. One of the priorities for the next Wild Speciesreport will be to continue to increase the number and variety of species included for conservation status assessments. There are still many species remaining to be assessed in Canada, and it is essential to determine what their conservation status is to prevent them from becoming extinct. Another priority will be to continue to reassess the species that were included in the previous Wild Species reports, to detect eventual changes in the conservation statuses of the species. In the future, the Wild Species series will continue to consolidate our knowledge of species in Canada.

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