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COSEWIC Annual Report 2003

Appendix VII

 

AN ARTHROPODA SSC FOR COSEWIC

A proposal by COSEWIC to the

Canadian Wildlife Directors

and the

Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council

Prepared by a COSEWIC Working Group chaired by Gerry Mackie and including Sherman Boates, Dick Cannings, Jim Duncan, Theresa Fowler, Henry Lickers and Marco Festa-Bianchet

Introduction

COSEWIC is currently mandated to cover only two groups of invertebrates, the molluscs and butterflies. The work of the Molluscs and Lepidopterans Specialist Sub-committee has led to the assessment of 32 species since its creation in 1995.

Many invertebrate phyla that are not included within the taxonomic expertise of any current COSEWIC SSC contain species potentially at risk. Some phyla deserve attention because they are well known and face significant threats (e.g., habitat degradation, harvest, exploitation); these include Cnidaria (especially corals), Porifera (sponges), Echinodermata (starfishes, sea urchins, etc), and Arthropoda (spiders, crustaceans and insects).

However, resources for, and feasibility of, species assessments are limited for many of these groups. Arthropoda is the logical phylum of choice for an expansion of the taxonomic coverage of COSEWIC, because several species that are important ecologically, economically, socially, recreationally or aesthetically are under threat, and considerable expertise exists in Canada to support the assessment process. We therefore propose that a new SSC be added to COSEWIC on the phylum Arthropoda, resulting in one additional vote on COSEWIC. Limited availability of data on the status of most arthropod species indicates that the number of species assessed in the first five years of work of the proposed new SSC should be limited to approximately 20 species.

Criteria for Selecting Taxa for COSEWIC

1.     Taxonomic stability and specimen availability:

About 4,500 species of arachnids, 400 species of crustaceans and 30,000 species of insects occur in Canada. The largest collection of arachnids in Canada is the Canadian National Collection (CNC); about 70% of the collection is curated to the species level. The Canadian Museum of Nature has about 85,000 lots of crustaceans, most of them identified to species.

About 20 million insect specimens are held in more than 100 collections in Canada. About 13 million of these specimens are in the Canadian National Collection in Ottawa. In addition, there are about 50 collections that contain more than 10,000 specimens each. Most agriculture and forestry laboratories and many universities and museums hold smaller, more or less specialized, collections, most of them built up by one or a few interested individuals within the larger institution. Curation to the species or species group level varies greatly, depending largely on whether revisions for particular families are available for the North American fauna.

2.     Expertise on Taxon:

There are approximately 100 acarologists in Canada, mostly associated with universities and federal and provincial museums or collections. The distribution of expertise appears to be mainly central and western Canada (especially BC).

There is less information available on the numbers of crustacean experts in Canada. We estimate that about 20-30 crustacean experts are actively doing ecological and taxonomic research on a variety of crustaceans. COSEWIC members are already in contact with several of these experts.

More than 1,000 entomologists work in Canada, and several hundred conduct research. Research efforts are carried out in federal and provincial government services and in universities, and to a lesser extent in private industry.

3.     Expertise to serve as SSC co-chairs and members:

Most of the membership for the Arthropoda SSC will be derived from the large pool of experts described above.

4.     Expertise to serve as authors of status reports:

The pool of experts to serve as authors for arachnid reports will be from graduate students of taxonomic experts, the members of the SSC, research technicians, and consultants. About 25 people are registered in the workgroup database on arachnid taxa, most of them from western (BC, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba) and central Canada (Ontario and Québec).

Many departments of the federal government employ entomologists, but by far the greatest number work for Agriculture Canada which has 28 regional agricultural stations and 6 forestry centres. Professional entomologists in universities are as numerous as those in the federal service. One or more entomologists are included in many university departments of biology or zoology, and larger numbers work in entomology departments at the University of Manitoba and Macdonald College of McGill University, the Department of Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph, and biology departments of the Universities of Toronto, Alberta and British Columbia. More than 300 graduate students are currently registered in entomology at Canadian universities, about 130 proceeding to the degree of Ph.D. Several dozen entomologists are employed by provincial ministries of agriculture, environment, etc., and several more work at Provincial Museums in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Consulting companies conducting environmental studies, pest control firms, pesticide companies, and a few other private organizations also employ a modest number of entomologists.

Canadian Arthropods (not including Lepidoptera) Potentially at Risk

Most Canadian jurisdictions do not currently list any Arthropoda other than Lepidopterans in Provincial or Territorial Species at Risk legislation. Nevertheless, three species of tiger beetle are either listed as "Vulnerable" or under consideration for possible listing in Manitoba, while in Québec a list of possible candidate species is being prepared for coleopterans and crayfishes.

The website, http://rbcm1.rbcm.gov.bc.ca/end_species/insectax.html, lists the following arachnid and insect taxa as species at risk in BC; presumably sufficient information exists for each of them and they would be among the first to be recommended for evaluation by COSEWIC:

Arachnids:
Sun Scorpion (Eremobates gladiolus)

Insects:
Coleoptera: Parowan Tiger Beetle (Cicindela parowana)
Odonata: Vivid Dancer (Argia vivida)
Orthoptera: Ground Mantid (Litaneutria minor)
Diptera: Apiocerid Fly (Apiocera barri)
             Robber Fly (Megaphorus willistoni)
Hymenoptera: Scoliid Wasp (Campsomeris pilipes)

Crustaceans:
Two species of crayfish, Fallicambarus fodiens and Cambarus diogenes, also appear worthy of consideration immediately. Both species are burrowing, semi-terrestrial crayfishes of southern Ontario.

For the most part, our understanding of most insect groups would result in rankings reflecting inadequate data and poor knowledge of life histories. Consequently, those groups and species would be unlikely to be considered by COSEWIC, at least in the immediate future. We emphasize that the new Arthropoda SSC will avoid commissioning reports on species for which available information is insufficient to evaluate conservation status.

The total number of arthropod species that a new SSC is likely to review over the first few years of its existence would be determined by a working group composed of experts in all three classes (see "Conclusions and Recommendations"). A reasonable estimate would be double those listed above (i.e., about 20 species) within 5 years, in addition to butterflies that are already within the mandate of the current "Molluscs and Lepidopterans" SSC.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

There are several arthropod species that would be immediately eligible for review as well as several knowledgeable report writers that could bid for the production of status reports. There is also adequate expertise to form a Species Specialist Subcommittee. Because information on most species is insufficient for a COSEWIC assessment, there is no need currently to create distinct sub-committee for the spiders, crustaceans and insects.

We recommend the establishment of a new SSC with mandate to cover Arthropods, including the lepidopterans that are currently covered by the Molluscs and Lepidopterans SSC. The latter SSC would have its mandate limited to molluscs. It is useful to note here that the current Molluscs and Lepidopterans SSC presently works as two essentially independent sub-groups because of the very different nature of the taxa covered and conservation issues those taxa face.

The creation of new SSC and revision to a current one would result in one additional vote for COSEWIC, and two new "members" (i.e., the two co-chairs).

The proposed Arthropoda SSC would be based on the current Lepidoptera SSC members and would then recruit other members. A COSEWIC working group would be established to develop, under the guidance of the COSEWIC Chair, a working plan for the Arthropoda SSC. The working group will decide on the co-chair expertise required and on the number and expertise of SSC members. Once it is formed, the Arthropoda SSC will develop a prioritization scheme based on probable risk and available information on Canadian species. That prioritization scheme will be examined by COSEWIC before status reports are commissioned.

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