Gold-edged gem (Schinia avemensis) recovery strategy 2014

Official title: Recovery Strategy for the Gold-edged Gem (Schinia avemensis) in Canada – 2014

Species at Risk Act
Recovery Strategy Series

Gold-edged Gem (Schinia avemensis)

Photo of Gold-edged Gem (Schinia avemensis).

Table of Contents

Document Information

Recovery Strategy for the Gold-edged Gem (Schinia avemensis) in Canada – 2014.

Cover page of the publication: Recovery Strategy for the Gold-edged Gem (Schinia avemensis) in Canada – 2014

Recommended citation:

Environment Canada. 2014. Recovery Strategy for the Gold-edged Gem (Schinia avemensis) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. iv + 31 pp.

For copies of the recovery strategy, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, action plans, and other related recovery documents, please visit the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry.

Cover illustration: Gold-edged Gem on Skeletonweed (Helen Trefry – Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Services)

Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Programme de rétablissement de l’héliotin d’Aweme (Schinia avemensis) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2014. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-100-23325-3
Catalogue no.: En3-4/179-2014E-PDF

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species and are required to report on progress within five years.

The Minister of Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Gold-edged Gem and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the Department of National Defence, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada, or any other jurisdiction alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Gold-edged Gem and Canadian society as a whole.

This recovery strategy will be followed by one or more action plans that will provide information on recovery measures to be taken by Environment Canada and other jurisdictions and/or organizations involved in the conservation of the species. Implementation of this strategy is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.


This document was written by Medea Curteanu, Environment Canada. Gary Anweiler provided extensive Gold-edged Gem information and data, and graciously reviewed various drafts of this document. The cover photo of Schinia avemensis was generously provided by Helen Trefry, Environment Canada. Marie-Christine Bélair, Robin Bloom, Dave Duncan, Wendy Dunford, Marie-Josée Ribeyron, Mark Wayland and Sharilyn Westworth (Environment Canada); Jeanette Pepper (Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment); Chris Nykoluk, Brant Kirychuk, Natasha Wilkie, Heather Wiebe, Bret Ward, Melanie Dubois and Rick Ashton (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada); Dean Nernberg (Department of National Defence); and Richard Quinlan (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development) reviewed the document and provided valuable comments. Gillian Turney and Gary Weiss, Environment Canada, helped prepare early versions of the distribution and critical habitat maps.

Executive Summary

  • The Gold-edged Gem is a small inconspicuous day-flying flower moth endemic to North America. Globally, the species is considered rare and has a restricted distribution; only twelve element occurrences[1] (hereafter called “occurrences”) are known to exist in Canada and the United States. The nine occurrences known to exist within Canada are small and fragmented with a limited range; the species was listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 2007.
  • The Gold-edged Gem has specialized habitat requirements. The moth inhabits remnant patches of active sand dunes or blowouts where colonies of Prairie Sunflowers, its only known larval host plant, exist. The flight and mating period of the Gold-edged Gem is short and coincides with the blooming of Prairie Sunflowers. To date, efforts to survey Gold-edged Gem suitable habitat have been limited in Canada. Thus, little distribution and biological data are available.
  • The primary threat to Gold-edged Gem recovery is habitat loss due to the progressive stabilization of active sand dunes across its range. Other threats to the species include elimination of host and nectar plants by invasive species, trampling of host and nectar plants, oil and gas development, ungulate herbivory, pest control, military activities and stochastic events.
  • Recovery of the Gold-edged Gem is determined biologically and technically feasible. The population and distribution objectives for the Gold-edged Gem are to maintain or increase the distribution of all known occurrences in the Canadian range of the species, and any additional occurrence(s) discovered in Canada in the future. Recovery planning will be carried out through four broad strategies: inventory and monitoring, habitat management and stewardship, outreach and communication, and research.
  • Critical habitat identified in this recovery strategy encompasses all nine occurrences known to exist in Canada and is considered sufficient to achieve the population and distributions objectives, at this time. Critical habitat for the Gold-edged Gem is identified within or adjacent to 23 quarter sections in Alberta, 18 quarter-sections in Saskatchewan, and 7 quarter-sections in Manitoba. Additional critical habitat may be identified across the range of the species as more information becomes available. Within these quarter-sections, critical habitat is identified as the active open sand dunes and/or blowouts, encompassing the area from the crest of the dune to the edge where native vegetation grows and the dune is stabilized.
  • One or more action plans for the Gold-edged Gem will be completed by 2018.

Recovery Feasibility Summary

Under the Species at Risk Act (Section 40), the competent minister is required to determine whether the recovery of the listed species is technically and biologically feasible. Based on the following criteria outlined by the Government of Canada (2009) for recovering species at risk, recovery of the Gold-edged Gem is considered biologically and technically feasible:

1. Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance.

Yes.  Although the species abundance may fluctuate with populations of its only known larval host plant, adult Gold-edged Gems have been observed within 9 sand hills in Canada and have been observed mating in some occurrences. Under similar conditions, individuals are likely to continue to reproduce and persist at these occurrences. Further surveys of suitable habitat may result in the discovery of additional occurrences. Securing and enhancing additional nearby habitat may increase population abundance and growth rate.

2. Sufficient suitable habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration.

Yes.  Although it appears to be small, fragmented, and progressively declining, suitable Gold-edged Gem habitat is presently available where the species has been observed as well as elsewhere in its Canadian range. Additional surveys may uncover more suitable habitat in sand hills that have not been surveyed yet. Several habitat management practices have the potential to maintain and enhance Gold-edged Gem habitat.

3. The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside Canada) can be avoided or mitigated.

Yes.  The main threat to Gold-edged Gem recovery is habitat loss as a result of active sand dune stabilization. Other threats to the species include elimination of host and nectar plants by invasive species, trampling of host and nectar plants, oil and gas development, ungulate herbivory, pest control, military activities and stochastic events. Threats can be reduced or eliminated through stewardship, beneficial management practices, protection of critical habitat and raising awareness of the species requirements and threats among land users.

4. Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable timeframe.

Yes.  Raising awareness of the species requirements and threats among the public and beneficial management practices such as prescribed burning, control of invasive species and vegetation encroachment, and suitable grazing should contribute to reduce or eliminate the most prevalent threats of sand dune stabilization, trampling of host and nectar plants, elimination of host and nectar plants by invasive species, and oil and gas development impacts in targeted occurrences. These techniques should aid in achieving the population and distributions objectives.

1. COSEWIC Species Assessement Information

Date of Assessment: April 2006

Common Name (population): Gold-edged Gem

Scientific Name: Schinia avemensis

COSEWIC Status: Endangered

Reason for designation: This moth is a habitat specialist that needs active dunes or blow-outs with populations of its sole larval host plant. It is known from only two small populations in Canada and two in United States. Large-scale decline in active dune habitat over the past 100 years has likely resulted in a corresponding reduction in the moth. Only very small, scattered, isolated patches of suitable habitat, totaling approximately 6 km², remain. They are threatened by habitat loss in the form of stabilization of active dunes by both native and introduced vegetation and by overgrazing of its larval host plant, which severely impacts small isolated populations of the moth. The closest population of the moth in the United States is about 1,200 km to the south in Colorado, so immigration of individuals into the Canadian population is not possible.

Canadian Occurrence: AB, SK, MB

COSEWIC Status History: Designated Endangered in April 2006.

COSEWIC = Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

2. Species Status Information

The Gold-edged Gem (Schinia avemensis) is globally ranked as imperilled (G2) and nationally ranked as critically imperilled (N1) in Canada (NatureServe 2011). The species occurs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba where it is also ranked as critically imperilled (S1). The percentage of the Gold-edged Gem’sglobal distribution and abundance found in Canada is currently unknown. The Gold-edged Gem has been listed as Endangered under Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act since 2007 and was listed by the province of Manitoba under its Endangered Species Act as Endangered in 2012. In the United States, the moth is unranked nationally (NNR) and in Colorado (SNR), the only state where the species is known to occur (NatureServe 2011).

1 An area of land and/or water in which a species or natural community is, or was, present and has practical conservation value (NatureServe, 2011).

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