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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) in Canada

7. Broad Strategies and Approaches to Recovery

In order to attain the Population and Distribution Objectives, the approaches to recover the species are summarized and ranked below by their degree of urgency. Threats to the populations and information requirements are addressed. These approaches will be planned with due regard for negative impacts on other species at risk that the Lake Erie Sand Spit Savannas ecosystem supports.

7.1 Manage Critical Habitat to Maintain Suitability - Urgent

Without vegetation management interventions to restore early successional stages of the Lake Erie Sand Spit Savannas ecosystem, the quality and quantity of critical habitat available is expected to decline. Based on monitoring information, plant communities need to be managed to maintain or restore early successional stages using locally developed and appropriate methods.

7.2 Identify Habitat for Restoration - Urgent

In order to meet the Population and Distribution Objectives, areas for habitat restoration in Point Pelee National Park need to be identified, prior to restoration efforts.

7.3 Monitor Populations and Habitats - Necessary

Monitoring of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus individuals, microsites and populations will continue using the existing protocols in both Point Pelee National Park and Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve. As well, monitoring protocols to measure vegetation succession and habitat quality will be developed and initiated. This will provide the data necessary for determining population trends and viability, and allow for the evaluation of progress toward achieving recovery (see Performance Measures section below). This will provide the baseline information needed to measure success in achieving the Population and Distribution Objectives.

7.4 Minimize Collection and Other Human Disturbances - Necessary

Education and communication initiatives will be developed and implemented to reduce the behavior of collection of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus. These may include targeted, effective communications to encourage compliance, as well as enforcement of existing legislation.

7.5 Assess Feasibility of Restoration - Beneficial

Determine whether Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus patches of unknown origin have been transplanted from or are descended from transplanted individuals from the two native populations. Based on the findings, assess the appropriateness and feasibility of restoration in each case.

7.6 Address Major Knowledge Gaps

7.6.1 Threat Clarification - Necessary

Based on the threats identified earlier, characterize the type, magnitude and frequency of threats to populations of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus using a standardized impact assessment protocol.

7.6.2 Spatial Population Structure and Origin - Beneficial

Research on population genetics of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus should continue, specifically addressing genetic relationships and variability among naturally occurring, transplanted and introduced sites and sites of unknown origin, as well as potential or actual natural source sites. A systematic review of the species' records is also needed to confirm its historical range and assist in the identification of potential sites for restoration. Genetic studies will assist in the recovery of critically imperiled and degraded populations through the identification of appropriate source material for restoration to historic sites, supplementation of non-viable populations and increasing the genetic diversity of viable populations. It will also help identify the urgency of restoration and augmentation efforts for extirpated and native populations.

7.7 Protect and Restore Genetic Integrity - Beneficial

Out-crossing of introduced Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus populations with native populations can be prevented by encouraging removal of introduced genotypes and discouraging the sale of plants. Protection of native Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus genotypes and associated adaptations will help ensure long-term sustainability of the species' populations. Depending on whether restoration is feasible, plant material could be repatriated from transplanted sites to the appropriate native population to restore genetic material lost through past collection activities and storm events. This could also restore the size of degraded or imperilled species' populations to viable levels and increase genetic variability within populations.

7.8 Establish Gene Bank - Beneficial

A protocol for collection, processing and storage of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus seeds should be developed. Seeds would be collected and maintained live in a secure gene bank to preserve the native genotype to counteract a catastrophic event, if it occurs.

7.9 Build Community Support for Recovery - Beneficial

The content of existing educational tools for Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (e.g. pamphlets, DVDs, lectures, education programs, exhibits) needs to be expanded to include the national and global significance of the Lake Erie Sand Spit Savannas ecosystem where the cactus and a large number of other species at risk are found. Integral to this approach is the encouragement of the gathering and transfer of Traditional Ecological Knowledge from Knowledge Holders to others.  First Nation communities have maintained local ecosystems for generations through the use of community Traditional Ecological Knowledge.  It is important to gather and share Traditional Ecological Knowledge from Knowledge Holders to others as a means for species and ecosystem protection and recovery.  Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Science can, together, better inform assessment, monitoring, and recovery of the ecosystems that support specific species at risk.

Support for the recommended approach for recovery of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus needs to be developed. The ultimate goal is to increase community involvement in the development of an action plan and active participation in the implementation of ongoing recovery actions and present opportunities.