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.
|Wild Species report||Number of species assessed||Proportion of apparently secure or secure (all species)||Proportion of apparently secure or secure (numerical ranks only)|
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).
|Number of species assessed
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.
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.
|Taxonomic group||Number of
|Dragonflies and damselflies||4|
|Moths and butterflies||16|
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.
|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|
|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|
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.
|Taxonomic group||Number of species||Number of English common names||Number of French common names|
|Terrestrial and freshwater snails and slugs||326||0||0|
|Dragonflies and damselflies||213||213||0|
|Grasshoppers and relatives||269||269||269|
|Moths and butterflies||5257||0||0|
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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