Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna Fernald) recovery strategy: chapter 3


Recovery Goal

The fact that the Barrens Willow is naturally restricted to a relatively rare habitat affects the scope of recovery. Increased risk of extinction is inherent to high habitat specificity in space and time (Keith 1998). This species will always remain rare with a relatively small population and very restricted distribution. Recovery in this case is dependent upon the removal or mitigation of anthropogenic threats. Notwithstanding natural limiting factors that might have a significant impact on the population, threat abatement should result in the long-term survival of the species; natural population size and distribution should remain stable. The recovery goal for the Barrens Willow is therefore to secure the long term persistence of the natural population throughout its range.

11.       Recovery Objectives

Recovery actions undertaken over the next five years should address the following five objectives towards the achievement of long-term recovery goals.

I.                                                       Assess and monitor the status of the natural population.

II.                                                    Assess range and population dynamics of the natural population.  

III.                                                  Define threats and limiting factors and mitigate controllable ones.

IV.                                                 Lessen to the extent possible additional habitat loss and degradation due to

                                    human activities.

V.                                                    Implement a stewardship program with local residents and targeted      


12.       Approaches to Meet Recovery Objectives 

Priority Objectives Actions Specific Steps Key Performance Indicators
Urgent I, II, III & IV Biological surveys

- Survey potential habitat within and around the species’ known range, to determine complete distribution and population size, and identify threats and their impact

- Identify and map areas where the species occurs

- Complete survey of potential habitat within the known range

- Comprehensive estimate of population size

- Geo-referenced data and maps available to managers, stakeholders and enforcement officers

- List of threats and their impact as observed in the field

Urgent I, II, III & IV Habitat protection

- Support the establishment by the provincial government of the proposed Cape Norman Ecological Reserve (type locality)

- Delineate critical habitat

- Identify and support other protection measures for occurrences outside reserves

- Advise the appropriate property custodian (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and the federal Minister of the Environment regarding the protection of the Barrens Willow in the Cape Norman federal property

- Establishment of Cape Norman Ecological Reserve

- Map of critical habitat

- List of protection measures required at each site

- Initiation of protection process at each site

- Drafting of necessary regulations under the Provincial Endangered Species Act and Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act

- Completion of protection plan

- Drafting of the appropriate management policies for the Cape Norman federal property as required by the federal Species at Risk Act

Urgent I & II Monitoring

- Establish long term monitoring of each population

- Determine and monitor land use patterns

- Establishment of monitoring plots

- Establishment and maintenance of geo-referenced database on land use activities

Necessary I & II Demographic research - Determine key demographic parameters (reproduction, growth, longevity, survivorship, persistence of seed bank and seed viability) based on monitoring data - Continued collection and analysis of demographic data
Necessary I & III Taxonomic research - Improve understanding of species definition - Preparation of descriptions, keys, illustrations and collection of specimens that clarify identification of this and other species of willows, and their hybrids
Necessary I, II, III, IV & V Ecological research

- Determine the ecological requirements of the species

- Define critical habitat

- Identify limiting factors and natural threats, including climate change

- Description of ecological requirements of the species

- List of limiting factors and natural threats and their actual and potential effect

- Use of ecological data in critical habitat models and analysis of viability of the population

Necessary IV & V Public outreach

- Survey local communities to determine the attitudes of local populations towards conservation of the species

- Encourage stewardship opportunities and produce education material

- Completion of initial survey

- Involvement of residents in stewardship initiatives

Necessary I, II & III Compliance to regulations - Work to ensure compliance to protection measures under the Endangered Species Act and the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act (e.g. training of conservation officers and public information)

- Training of local conservation officers in the recognition of the species and its habitat

- Involvement of all relevant government departments

- Public awareness regarding the acts and attached regulations

- Frequent and regular of visits by compliance officers to the area

Beneficial I Genetic research

- Determine genetic diversity within and between populations

- Determine breeding system

- Description of genetic variability within and between populations

- Description of breeding system

Beneficial I, IV & V Ex-situ conservation

- Establish an ex-situ collection of living plants and a tissue bank

- Develop techniques for cultivation and re-introduction if ever necessary

- Existence of an ex-situ collection of living plants and a tissue bank representative of genetic diversity observed in wild population

- Description of techniques required for cultivation and re-introduction of the species

Beneficial III, IV & V Restoration - Identify and restore disturbed areas within the range with the aim of improving the aesthetic value of the landscape

- List of disturbed areas within the range

- Elaboration and completion of a restoration plan


13.       Ecological and Technical Feasibility of Species Recovery

            As discussed above, the Barrens Willow will always remain rare and its survival is dependent upon the removal or mitigation of anthropogenic threats. Commercial exploitation and other development of the limestone barrens can be limited through internal cooperation among governmental agencies responsible for resource management. On the other hand, global warming, which may prove to be a significant anthropogenic threat, would be very difficult to address at a regional scale. It is beyond the scope of this recovery strategy.

            Highest priority actions for recovery of this species consist of surveys, monitoring and habitat protection. Other important steps include demographic, taxonomic and ecological research, public outreach and compliance to regulations. Surveys, ecological research and habitat protection for the limestone barrens are already under way as part of recovery efforts for Long’s and Fernald’s Braya (Hermanutz et al. 2002). The same is true for public outreach, under the auspices of the Limestone Barrens Habitat Stewardship Program.

                  In order to clarify our understanding of threats and limiting factors, to complete surveys, and to set up monitoring sites, a large initial investment of time and resources will be needed. Efforts in terms of research, monitoring and compliance to regulations, and involvement with local communities will be long-term. Because the area where the species occurs is far from major centres, any work in the area and contact with local communities involves significant investments in terms of travel time and communication costs.

            The ex-situ collection will provide an alternate source of material for research and possibly reduce costs as well as the need for destructive sampling of the wild population. This collection will also serve as a backup to conservation in the wild.

14.       Potential Impacts of Recovery Strategy on Other Species/Ecological Processes

            The Barrens Willow is restricted to a rare habitat type, and lives within a unique biological community. Protection of this habitat will ensure protection of many of the other rare species and ecological processes characteristic of this unique ecosystem. Rare species found within the range of the Barrens Willow include the threatened Fernald’s Braya. Restoration aimed at improving the esthetic value of the landscape will increase its stewardship value and in the long-term possibly provide renewed natural habitat for limestone barren species.


15.       Anticipated Conflicts or Challenges

            The general area where this species occurs has been, and will likely continue to be, exploited as a source of limestone gravel for road building and maintenance. Management of local quarry operations is starting to take into account the presence of rare plants. However, conservation efforts should continue; and appropriate tools to inform managers of the occurrence of potential habitat should be developed and communications improved.

            Part of the species’ range (Cape Norman) has been identified as the most important dolomite deposit on the west coast of Newfoundland. At this point in time, interest in this mineral resource, by the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Mines and Energy, is only at the exploratory stage. No claim has been established.

            Maintenance of roads and infrastructure within the range of the species could directly threaten portions of the population and conflict with recovery efforts. Mitigation measures may need to be developed.

            Finally, there are economic challenges in the area which have the potential to create additional development pressure on the species and its habitat. These challenges have recently been aggravated by the collapse of the local fishery.

17.       Actions Completed or Underway

            This recovery strategy will be implemented as part of a multi-species recovery effort centered on the coastal limestone barren habitats of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland (Hermanutz et al. 2002). Several actions are already underway, including a habitat stewardship program, ecological research into the physical factors and processes characterizing limestone barren habitats, surveys of potential habitat, and the development of an ex-situ collection of live specimens. Actions completed include the creation of an Ecological Reserve for the protection of rare plants in the southern portion of the species range (Watt’s Point). Potential habitat has been mapped. Finally, known areas of occurrence have been identified on the provincial Crown Lands Atlas as Sensitive Wildlife Areas, to ensure the referral of all development proposals for these areas to the Inland Fish and Wildlife Division for review.


18.       Evaluation

            See key performance indicators in Section 12. As well, an action plan detailing the approaches to meet recovery objectives will be prepared within a year of the release of this plan.

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