Small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) recovery strategy 2007: chapter 3


3.1   Recovery Feasibility 

The recovery of Small whorled pogonia is deemed technically and biologically feasible for the following reasons:

1.     There are individuals within the North American range which are currently available to improve population growth rate and population abundance.  However, it is currently unknown if these individuals are genetically suitable donor populations.

2.     There is currently habitat available to support the species in its original occurrence area.

3.     Significant threats to the species are likely to be avoided or mitigated through recovery actions and site management plans.

4.     There are some recovery techniques which would be effective in ensuring the habitat remains suitable for this species.  However, it is unknown whether the necessary techniques to reintroduce the species would be effective for this species, if the species was found to be extirpated.

3.2   Recovery Goal, objectives and corresponding approaches 

3.2.1   Recovery Goal 

The long-term goal (2006-2026) of this recovery strategy is to maintain the persistence and viability of Canada’s only population.

3.2.2   Recovery Objectives

The short-term recovery objectives for this population are to:

1.     Survey and, if extant, monitor individual plants within the area of the four recorded historical subpopulations.

2.     Determine population dynamics and habitat characteristics of the Calton Swamp Colony.

3.     Develop strategies for the protection of the population and supporting habitat.

4.     Investigate techniques and feasibility of augmenting the extant population or restoring the species to historic locations if it is deemed to be extirpated.

5.     Initiate research to address knowledge gaps related to the species’ biology and ecology.

3.2.3   Broad Strategy to be taken to address threats 

The strategies detailed in this section have been grouped into four categories:

1.     Population/Habitat Assessment

2.     Population/Habitat Protection

3.     Education/Stewardship and Regulatory Control

4.     Research

Table 3: Strategies to effect recovery of Small whorled pogonia in Canada. ‘Obj. No.’ refers to recovery objective as defined in section 2.2.2.  

Priority Obj. No.

Broad Approach/


Threat Addressed General Steps Outcomes
Urgent 1 Population Assessment All

Conduct plant surveys and studies to estimate the population (presence/absence) and its trend.

This includes surveys to relocate the population.

Updated information and assessments of existing population status and range
Urgent 1 Population/Habitat Mapping Habitat degradation Utilize new technologies (GPS and Electronic Mapping) to delineate/map extent of populations and their critical habitat.

Permanent Spatial Data/Maps to assist long-term monitoring efforts.

Mapping of critical habitat

Urgent 2 Habitat Assessment Habitat degradation Determine population dynamics and requirements through detailed studies.  Improved understanding of critical habitat and population status.
Necessary 3 Habitat Restoration Habitat degradation Identify and develop strategies to increase habitat in the areas surrounding the known population. Improve/increase habitat
Necessary all Community Education Habitat degradation, trampling, collection Utilize workshops, printed materials and site visits with adjacent landowners to educate and demonstrate appropriate land stewardship Obtain support from the community and allow detailed surveys of potential habitat.
Necessary 4,5



all Initiate communication with the U.S. Small whorled pogonia recovery team and determine how best to coordinate recovery and research efforts. Coordinated recovery across the species’ range.
Beneficial all Habitat protection Habitat degradation Protection of known and/or potential habitat using appropriate techniques such as: conservation easements, convenants, etc. Long-term protection of critical habitat.
Beneficial 4 Research Loss of genetic diversity Investigate techniques and feasibility of augmenting current population, or reintroducing the species if it is extirpated. Increased likelihood of population survival.
Beneficial 5 Research All Conduct scientific research on knowledge gaps, eg: fungal relationship, population genetic research. Fill knowledge gaps related to the species’ biology and ecology.
Beneficial 3,4 Research Habitat degradation Conduct scientific research on the light requirements of the Ontario population and what forest management techniques would optimize growth. Fill knowledge gaps, provide information for the successful management of the species.

3.3   Critical Habitat 

3.3.1   Identification of the critical habitat of Small whorledpogonia 

Identification of critical habitat will be deferred to the Action Plan stage, pending the completion of intensive site inventories.  It is questionable whether any individuals currently survive in Canada.  If they are extant within Ontario, the extent of the populations must be determined prior to the identification of critical habitat.  Inventories should focus on the three sites where Small whorled pogonia was last known to occur and, more specifically, on those areas with similar habitat characteristics as described in Section 1.4.1.  

Small whorled pogonia habitat includes the vegetation community in Calton Swamp in “partial shade at the open edge of deciduous second growth, adjacent to a stand of mature hemlocks.  Other species in the area include Yellow Birch, Sugar Maple, Red Ash, Large-toothed Aspen, American Chestnut, Red Oak and Black Cherry” (Brownell 1982). The vegetation community should be described and mapped to the level of Ecosite Type following the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) for Southern Ontario (Lee et al. 1998).

A schedule of studies will allow for identification of critical habitat and assessment of feasibility for reintroduction of the species.  It is recommended that monitoring, evaluation, and updating of the critical habitat boundaries be conducted as necessary and as additional information becomes available.

3.3.2   Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection 

The Small whorled pogonia is currently listed as Endangered-Regulated within Ontario and is protected under the Ontario Endangered Species Act from willful harm and destruction of the species individuals or its habitat.  It also receives protection under Section 2.0 of the Provincial Policy Statement, under Ontario’s Planning Act, which protects ‘significant habitat’ of endangered and threatened species from ‘development and site alteration’.

All known critical habitat for Small whorled pogonia in Canada is under the ownership of the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority and is considered to be protected from development pressures. No land acquisition or policy approaches are required unless new sites are discovered. Protecting habitat at this site is related only to managing threats if required.  Other approaches may be necessary if new populations are discovered.

3.3.3   Schedule of studies 

To further refine the critical habitat definition, the following studies should be completed:

Description of Activity Expected Results Estimated time to completion
Conduct field surveys to determine if the population is still extant, if so, determine the extent of the current population.  These surveys may take a number of years to ensure that the population is extant.  Verification of population existence.

5 years


Conduct ELC mapping for extant site; map critical habitat Definition of existing and potential habitat. 1 year after population relocated
Evaluate suitability of habitat in the Calton Swamp area for potential reintroduction. Identification of potential sites for augmenting the population.

5 years


3.4   Effects on other species

Negative impacts on other native species are not anticipated as a result of the completion of these recovery activities.  Generally speaking the protection and enhancement of habitat from further degradation will benefit all species at affected sites.  Any research and monitoring activities should be structured in such a way that neither the site nor the activities themselves result in any modifications or damage to the site or its resident biota.  The effects of the proposed recovery activities should be monitored to ensure that they are resulting in tangible positive benefits.

3.5   Performance Measures  

Recovery can be considered successful if the following have been met:

·     Objective 1 - Survey/monitoring data has determined whether the species is extant or extirpated from Ontario.

·     Objective 2 - Population dynamics and habitat characteristics of any extant populations have been studied.

·     Objective 3 - Protection of Small whorled pogonia has been incorporated into any new management plans or other relevant documents for Catfish Creek Conservation Authority.

    Critical habitat has been mapped.

    Any research results have been used to improve management activities.

·     Objective 4 - Reintroduction techniques have been investigated and their feasibility for use in Canada has been determined.

·     Objective 5 - Studies on biological and ecological needs of Small whorled pogonia initiated. 

3.6   Statement of when One or More Action Plans in Relation to the Recovery Strategy will be Completed 

An action plan will be completed for the Small whorled pogonia by 2011.

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