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Spoon-leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia Illecebra)

Executive Summary

Spoon-leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra), a robust, Endangered moss of seasonally flooded, variably wooded habitats possesses no specialized dispersal mechanisms within its Canadian range.  To date, only female plants have been documented in Canada.  Very little scientific knowledge exists on the biology or ecology of Spoon-leaved Moss, or the reasons for its rarity. 

Although it is abundant in the U.S., its Canadian distribution, representing the northern-most edge of its global range, consists of three widely separated (>170km) stations near the north shore of Lake Erie, Ontario, in Essex and Elgin Counties, and in Niagara Region.  This North American distribution pattern is typical of Carolinian or eastern deciduous forest plant species.   The small number of isolated locations, the small size of all populations, and the potential for habitat decline prompted COSEWIC to designate the Spoon-leaved Moss as Endangered in Canada in 2003.

All known populations of Spoon-leaved Moss occur on land owned and managed by conservation-oriented organizations.  Severe forest fragmentation and development for agricultural or other land uses in densely-populated southern Ontario are often cited as major threats to Carolinian plant species and atmospheric pollution (to which bryophytes can be particularly sensitive) is high.  No specific threats to any known extant Canadian population of Spoon-leaved Moss are currently known, although human activities near all populations indicate issues that may become important: habitat fragmentation, changes to moisture regime, competition from invasive plant species, trampling, vegetation or substrate disturbance, and roadside garbage.  Habitat change through natural succession may also pose a threat.

The recovery goal for Spoon-leaved Moss is “to conserve existing populations of Spoon-leaved Moss in the long term and, if feasible, restore the species’ long-term stability and self-sustainability in Ontario by increasing the size of existing populations and/or the number of known occurrences.”  Critical habitat cannot be fully defined based on current information; instead, it will be identified incrementally from the baseline of the current area known to be occupied by the species.  A research schedule for incremental identification is outlined in this report.

The recovery strategy emphasizes monitoring, management, and research activities supported by a strong communication strategy and continuous re-evaluation and revision based on accumulating data and experience.  Priority approaches include 1) full documentation of the extent of known extant populations and surveys for undocumented populations, 2) identification, monitoring and management of threats, 3) monitoring of populations to ensure stable status and to gather demographic data, and 4) research into factors limiting reproductive and dispersal potential in Canadian populations.  The recovery strategy should be integrated into management plans for the protected areas in which the species occurs, and into broader scale conservation / restoration initiatives for south-western Ontario and Carolinian species and habitats.