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Recovery Strategy for the Engelmann's Quillwort (Isoetes engelmannii) in Canada (Proposed)


5.0 Recovery

5.1 Recovery Feasibility

The recovery of Engelmann's Quillwort is considered feasible based on four criteria as outlined in Environment Canada's National Policy on Recovery Feasibility:

  1. There are individuals present that are capable of reproduction in order to maintain the current populations. It is felt that recovery efforts will not result in Engelmann's quillwort becoming a common species in central Ontario waterways. It seems most likely to have been a naturally rare disjunct species that has never been in large numbers in this region. Its status may represent a position near to or at the species' historic peak of abundance.

  2. Sufficient suitable habitat is available for the species as long as it is maintained through threat mitigation. In addition, more habitat could be made available through restoration and management efforts. Habitat-related environmental enhancement would likely involve a diversity of community and agency partners and stakeholders to maintain and sustain Engelmann's quillwort in Canada. It is anticipated that such coordinated enhancement programs would include shoreline naturalization, reduction in bank erosion, reduction in the volume and toxicity of polluted stormwater (run-off), and removal/ prevention of on-going and/ or anticipated mechanical impacts.

  3. Significant threats to the species can be mitigated through a variety of techniques outlined within this strategy.

  4. A variety of recovery techniques are available, many of which have proven to be successful with other aquatic plants.

Accordingly, maintaining existing populations and their habitat in sustainable conditions constitutes a relatively small-scale undertaking.

5.2 Recovery Goal, Objectives, and Activities

5.2.1 Recovery Goal

To ensure the sustainability of Engelmann's quillwort populations on the Severn and Gull Rivers and any other populations that may be discovered. Habitat sustainability implies persistence within the species' known Canadian range with ecological integrity levels sufficiently high to support viable Engelmann's quillwort populations.

5.2.2 Recovery Objectives

Objectives intended to deliver the goal of the Engelmann's quillwort Recovery Strategy are listed below (Table 2) and are based on a five year timeline for completion (i.e. 2011). Actions, which address these objectives, are outlined in the following section (Table 3).

Table 2. Engelmann's quillwort recovery objectives

  1. Population size and distribution, population viability, and genetic affinity to other populations are more fully understood.
  2. Ecological requirements sufficiently understood such that the identification of critical habitat could be refined.
  3. All known subpopulations are monitored at varying levels of effort every three years.
  4. Extent of each threat to Engelmann's quillwort is more fully understood and threat-specific mitigation techniques established.
  5. Threats to Engelmann's quillwort and its habitat are minimized through Federal, Provincial, and municipal legislation, policy and regulation with a focus on critical habitat in 2006/2007.
  6. Educational tools and programs for stewardship and conservation developed with landowners, land managers and stakeholders such that threats to Engelmann's quillwort and its habitat are minimized with a focus on critical habitat in 2006/2007.
  7. Restoration techniques and a protocol for implementation are developed and suitable, unoccupied habitats are identified for reintroduction should this measure be required.

5.2.3 Actions to be taken to address threats

Delivery of the Goals and Objectives of the Engelmann's quillwort Recovery Strategy require specific actions to be implemented directly or with partners (Table 3). These are summarized below. Given the uncertainty around some of the threats to this species and other knowledge gaps, many of the actions are based on gaining knowledge rather than specifically addressing threats. Wherever possible and appropriate, specific threats to Engelmann's quillwort have been addressed by these actions.

Table 3. Recovery actions to achieve Recovery Objectives
Objective StatementPriorityActionsEffectsThreats addressed
Population size and distribution, population viability, and genetic affinity to other populations are more fully understood.LowSurvey of potential habitatsDetermination of population size to increase knowledge of distribution and abundanceIndirect. Threats better understood.
LowAssessment of existing location records in North AmericaUnderstanding of continental population and relationship of Ontario's population to itAs above.
HighIdentify important populationsProvides priority sites for protection and monitoringAs above.
HighDetermine genetic markers and develop fingerprinting techniqueLeads to development of fingerprinting methods; identifies appropriate origins for potential transplanting material; species identificationAs above.
HighDetermine genetic affinity of Ontario's population to othersProvide evidence for native origin of Ontario's populationAs above.
Ecological requirements sufficiently understood such that the identification of critical habitat could be refined.HighEcological study of habitat of Ontario populationsIdentify habitat requirements; typical habitat can be used to identify other potential sitesIndirect. Threats better understood.
All known subpopulations are monitored at varying levels of effort every three years.MediumDevelop monitoring planEfficiently direct monitoring effortsIndirect. Threats better understood.
HighEstablish permanent monitoring transects for selected populationsProvides data to determine trends.
Feeds into monitoring plan
As above.
MediumConduct photographic surveys of selected populationsMechanism for periodic review of large populations
Feeds into monitoring plan.
As above.
HighPrepare an annual report of all activities for the year and provide monitoring data to NHICSummarizes and tracks actions taken; provides background and direction for future workAs above.
Extent of each threat to Engelmann's quillwort is more fully understood and threat-specific mitigation techniques established.HighIdentify factors negatively impacting populations and implement mitigation measures where necessary.Reduce negative impacts on populationsMechanical damage, nutrient enrichment, herbicide application,
water contaminants,  erosion or sedimentation from land sources, collection.
MediumResearch and investigate effective mitigationDetermine useful mitigation measuresAs above.
Threats to Engelmann's quillwort and its habitat are minimized through Federal, Provincial, and municipal legislation, policy and regulation with a focus on critical habitat in 2006/2007.HighInitiate process for listing under provincial Endangered Species ActProvides protection for species on crown and private landsMechanical damage, nutrient enrichment, excessive water level fluctuations, herbicide application, water contaminants, erosion or sedimentation, plant collection
HighDevelop and apply provincial habitat mapping guidelines for Engelmann's quillwort to facilitate application of the Provincial Policy Statement in municipal land use planning processesProtects populations from impacts of development on adjacent lands.As above.
MediumDevelop management guidelines for species where it exists on Trent Severn Waterway.Provides protection for species on federal landsAs above.
HighUse federal, provincial and municipal policy and legislation to provide protection through normal plan input and review on federal, crown, and private landsProvides protection on federal, crown and private lands As above.
HighRaise awareness of Parks Canada Trent Severn Waterway staff, MNR district and area staff and municipal planning staff involved in land use planning and managementAssure consideration of protection of Engelmann's quillwort during planning and management activitiesMechanical damage, nutrient enrichment, herbicide application, erosion or sedimentation.
Educational tools and programs for stewardship and conservation developed with landowners, land managers and stakeholders such that threats to Engelmann's quillwort and its habitat are minimizedwith a focus on critical habitat in 2006/2007.HighDevelop communication strategyEstablishes communication priorities and products for public, municipalities, resource management agenciesMechanical damage, nutrient enrichment,
herbicide application, water contaminants, introduced invasive species, erosion or sedimentation, plant collection
HighInitiate adjacent landowner contact programPromotes good stewardship practices by adjacent property owners; Prelude to listing under Endangered Species ActAs above.
Restoration techniques and a protocol for implementation are developed and suitable, unoccupied habitats are identified for reintroduction should this measure be required.LowDetermine if artificial propagation is possibleNecessary for future possible restoration efforts if this becomes necessary to sustain species in Canada.Mitigation for loss due to threats.
LowIdentify sites suitable for restorationEstablishes restoration prioritiesErosion or sedimentation.
LowDetermine restoration techniques for Engelmann's quillwort habitatNecessary for possible future restoration effortsMitigation for loss due to threats.

5.2.4 Actions Already Completed or Underway

  1. Distribution and population surveys of both the Severn and Gull River populations were completed in 2000 and 2002 (Figure 4; Brunton 2001; Brunton 2003).

  2. After designation of the Gull River site as a candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) in the Site District 5E-9 report (Brunton 1991), the highway adjacent to the main Gull River site was re-routed (in 1992) to avoid destruction of that population.

  3. Process to regulate Engelmann's quillwort under Ontario's Endangered Species Act was initiated in 2004.

  4. A trial underwater video monitoring project was completed at Big Chute in 2003 (Stevens 2003) and again in 2004.

  5. The development of genetic markers was completed in 2004 (Coleman and Wilson pers. comm. 2004).

  6. The development of genetic fingerprinting is underway at Trent University with final results expected in 2006.

  7. The determination of genetic affinities with other North American populations was initiated at Trent University in 2004.

  8. Ecological research and baseline integrity monitoring of Engelmann's quillwortsites with the Severn River population were initiated in 2004 (Heydon and Pidgen 2005). Ecological studies are continuing during 2005/2006 and 2006/2007.

  9. Monitoring Plan for Engelmann's Quillwort (Isoetesengelmannii) in the Severn River Big Chute completed in early 2005 (Heydon, 2005).

  10. Habitat review and collection of molecular research material from Engelmann's quillwortsites in the northeastern United States was undertaken in 2004.

5.3 Evaluation

The effectiveness of efforts to ensure the sustainability of Engelmann's quillwort populations and habitats on the Severn and Gull Rivers and any other populations that may be discovered can be measured (Table 4). These measures will differ in scope depending on the objective, as some objectives are more focused on information needs while others are more focused on threat mitigation. Performance measurements for each of the suggested Recovery Strategy objectives are listed below.

Table 4. Performance Measures
Objective StatementPerformance Measures
Population size and distribution, population viability, and genetic affinity to other populations are more fully understood.
  • Accurate estimates of population size made
  • Accurate mapping of distribution made
  • Studies on genetic affinity to other populations conducted
  • Population and distribution trends created
Ecological requirements sufficiently understood such that the identification of critical habitat could be refined.
  • Complete annual reports summarizing results of studies
  • Publish studies
  • Identification of critical habitat refined
All known subpopulations are monitored at varying levels of effort every three years.
  • Monitoring reports produced every three years
  • Population and distribution trends created
Extent of each threat to Engelmann's quillwort is more fully understood and threat-specific mitigation techniques established.
  • Ranked list of threats developed
  • Threat-specific mitigation techniques developed
Threats to Engelmann's quillwort and its habitat are minimized through Federal, Provincial, and municipal legislation, policy and regulation with a focus on critical habitat in 2006/2007.
  • Engelmann's quillwort regulated under the provincial Endangered Species Act
  • Mitigation measures incorporated into Trent/Severn Waterway management plan, the TSW shoreline application and review process and any other guidance material
  • Appropriate policies and zoning provisions identified in Official plans and zoning by-laws; may depend on timing of updates/revisions
  • Threats to critical habitat minimized
  • Number and extent of populations remains stable
Educational tools and programs for stewardship and conservation developed with landowners, land managers and stakeholders such that threats to Engelmann's quillwort and its habitat are minimized with a focus on critical habitat in 2006/2007
  • Communications plan completed
  • Stewardship programs in place with landowners, land managers and stakeholders
  • Number of populations remains stable
  • Threats to critical habitat minimized
Restoration techniques and a protocol for implementation are developed and suitable, unoccupied habitats are identified for reintroduction should this measure be required.
  • Effectiveness of restoration determined
  • Feasibility of propagation determined
  • Restoration undertaken if required
  • Suitable, unoccupied habitats mapped


5.4 Effects on Other Species

The recovery actions outlined in this strategy will likely benefit other plant species found within these two rivers. Reducing mechanical damage in general will serve to reduce impacts on other plant species such as Eaton's quillwort. In addition, managing nutrient enrichment will allow the systems to remain representative of an oligotrophic environment that supports native vegetation. It is not anticipated that these recovery actions will have any negative impacts on other taxa.