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Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada

Newt
Photo: Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) © B.T. Aniskowicz-Fowler

Introduction

Welcome to Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada.

The intent of the Wild Species series is to answer the following fundamental questions about wild species in Canada: which species occur in Canada, in which provinces, territories or ocean regions do they occur, and what is their status? To accomplish this goal, Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada presents the results of general status assessments for a broad cross-section of Canadian species. General status assessments are made by integrating the best available information on population size, distribution, threats and trends to generate an expert evaluation of the status of each species.

You can navigate this website by using the links on the left-hand side of this page, or by using the Table of Contents. You can also download a copy of the text of Wild Species 2005 as a pdf document by clicking here. The General Status Search Tool allows you to view and download the general status ranks on which this report is based.

The general status ranks for the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut are draft ranks until they have been reviewed by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope), the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (NWT), the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, the Gwich'in Renewable Resource Board and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB).

Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC). 2006. Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada. Available in French under title: Espèces Sauvages 2005 : La situation générale des espèces au Canada.

Executive summary

The intent of the Wild Species series is to answer the following fundamental questions about wild species in Canada: which species occur in Canada, in which provinces, territories or ocean regions do they occur, and what is their status? To accomplish this goal, Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada presents the results of general status assessments for a broad cross-section of Canadian plants and animals. General status assessments are made by integrating the best available information on population size, distribution, threats and trends to generate an expert evaluation of the status of each species. The strength of the Wild Species series lies in providing a common platform for the evaluation of the status of a wide variety of species, from all regions and all ecosystems in Canada, ranging from well known groups like birds and mammals to less well-known groups like freshwater mussels and crayfishes. This information is then made available to a broad audience in the form of the Wild Species reports. These reports enable everyone from students to research scientists and from amateur naturalists to resource managers, to place a species in a geographic, taxonomic and ecological context, and gain an impression of the species' general status within that context. In addition, general status ranks are used by COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), to help prioritize species for detailed status assessments.

The Wild Species series was created under the auspices of the "Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk". The Accord was established in 1996 by provincial, territorial and federal ministers responsible for wildlife, with the goal of preventing species in Canada from becoming extinct or extirpated because of human impact. This series fulfills a commitment of the Accord to "monitor, assess and report regularly on the status of all wild species". Wild Species 2005, the second report in the Wild Species series, presents general status assessments for a total of 7732 species from all provinces, territories, and ocean regions, representing all of Canada's vertebrates species (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals), all of Canada's vascular plants, and four invertebrate groups (freshwater mussels, crayfishes, odonates and tiger beetles). Six groups (vascular plants, freshwater mussels, crayfishes, odonates, tiger beetles and marine fishes) are being assessed for the first time. For these groups, Wild Species 2005 establishes a comprehensive, common platform for examining the general status of species across their Canadian range, as well as a baseline against which future changes in the distribution and abundance of species can be compared. The remaining six groups (ferns and orchids, freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) were originally assessed in Wild Species 2000, the first report of the Wild Species series. For these groups, Wild Species 2005 presents updated general status assessments, which incorporate new information on population sizes, distributions, threats and trends, where available. These updated general status assessments are the first step towards the goal of tracking species' status through time, allowing patterns of improvement or decline in status to emerge.

General status assessments are used to classify species into one of 10 general status ranks; Extinct, Extirpated, At Risk, May Be At Risk, Sensitive, Secure, Undetermined, Not Assessed, Exotic or Accidental (Table 1). These categories necessarily represent a coarse-scaled assessment of a species' status in Canada, due to the large number of species assessed, and the variability in the quantity and quality of information available for each species. Nevertheless, general status ranks allow species to be prioritized in terms of the effort and attention needed to prevent their further decline or loss: some species are apparently secure; some show early signs of trouble and may need additional monitoring or management, while others may be prioritized for detailed status assessments. In addition, the general status assessment process highlights information gaps: for some species, there may not be enough information to assess whether they are secure or of some degree of conservation concern.

The overall results of this report show that the majority of Canada's wild species are ranked Secure (Table 1); in fact, of the species ranked At Risk, May Be At Risk, Sensitive and Secure, a total of 70% have a Canada General Status Rank (Canada rank) of Secure (Figure 1). This number varies considerably among taxonomic groups; for eight of the 10 groups in this report (vascular plants, crayfishes, odonates, tiger beetles, fishes, amphibians, birds and mammals), at least 65% of species have a Canada rank of Secure. However for the two remaining groups this figure is much lower; only 37% of freshwater mussels have a Canada rank of Secure, while for reptiles, only 31% of species have a Canada rank of Secure.

One of the issues highlighted in this report, is the large number of non-native species in Canada. Of the 7732 species assessed in this report 16% are ranked Exotic at the national level, meaning that these species are not native to Canada, but were introduced by humans. Of the groups covered in this report, the vascular plants have the highest proportion of Exotic species (24%). Exotic species have been brought to Canada, both deliberately and accidentally, from around the world, and can have a number of damaging impacts on native species, including competing for space and resources, preying on native wildlife, breeding with native species and introducing novel diseases and parasites.

In total, 1330 species were assessed in both Wild Species 2000 and in this report. Of these, 12% have been assessed with a different Canada rank in 2005. However, changes in Canada ranks primarily reflect attempts to provide a more accurate picture of species' status, and not true biological change (i.e. changes in species population size, distribution or threats) since 2000. The majority of changes in Canada rank were due to changes in process (40%), or to new or updated COSEWIC assessments (33%); only 6% of changes were wholly or partly due to biological change since 2000. In total, 39% of changes involved species moving into a rank with an increased level of risk, 31% of changes involved species moving into a rank with a reduced level of risk, and 30% involved species moving into or out of the Undetermined, Not Assessed, Accidental or Extirpated categories. Considering only the species ranked in both 2000 and 2005, changes in Canada rank have not had a significant impact on the proportion of species in each general status category.

Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada has greatly increased the number and variety of species assessed nationally, but with total number of species in Canada estimated to be more than 70 000, there are still many species left to be assessed. So far the Wild Species series has focused on assessing species groups for which information and experts are fairly readily available. In the future, the program will tackle groups like mosses, lichens, grasshoppers and crickets, for which less information is available. This will make the process of assessing Canada's wild species even more challenging. Future reports will expand the number and variety of species assessed, as well as continuing to update general status assessments, so that trends in species' status can be tracked through time.

Table 1: Summary of 2005 Canada General Status Ranks (Canada ranks) by taxonomic group.
RankAll
species
Vascular
Plants
Freshwater
Mussels
CrayfishOdonatesTiger BeetlesFishesAmphibiansReptilesBirdsMammals
Extirpated3022100020311
Extinct50000010031
At risk2061108000269132713
May be at risk6345529028516021210
Sensitive657460152273657124125
Secure35412572197145212383012358139
Undetermined534112207139501511
Not assessed4653010004340000
Exotic12541216020012021111
Accidental40600020200021957
Total7732507455112093013894647653218

 

Figure 1: Comparison of the 2005 Canada General Status Ranks (Canada ranks), among taxonomic groups. Species ranked Extinct, Extirpated, Undetermined, Not Assessed, Exotic and Accidental are excluded.
Bar graph (long description below)
Long description for Figure 1

Figure 1 compares the percentages of species having different general status ranks for 2005. This was done for each of 10 taxonomic groups in Canada (vascular plants, freshwater mussels, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, odonates, tiger beetles, and crayfish) as well as all for all species combined. Species ranked extinct, extirpated, undetermined, not assessed, exotic and accidental are excluded from this comparison. Ranks for all species compiled were: 4% at risk, 13% may be at risk, 13% sensitive, and 70% secure. Vascular plant species were 3% at risk, 15% may be at risk, 12% sensitive, and 70% secure. Sixteen percent of freshwater mussel species were at risk, 18% may be at risk, 29% were sensitive, and 37% were secure. Eight percent of fish species were at risk, 5% may be at risk, 19% were sensitive, and 69% were secure. Twenty percent of amphibian species were at risk, 15% were sensitive, and 65% were secure. Thirty three percent of reptile species were at risk, 5% may be at risk, 31% were sensitive, and 31% were secure. Six percent of bird species were at risk, 3% may be at risk, 9% were sensitive, and 82% were secure. Seven percent of mammal species were at risk, 5% may be at risk, 13% were sensitive, and 74% were secure. Fourteen percent of Odonates may be at risk, 14% were sensitive, and 73% were secure. Seventeen percent of tiger beetle species may be at risk, 10% were sensitive, and 72% were secure. Twenty two percent of crayfish species were sensitive and 78% were secure.

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