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Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Final Version)

2.0: Results of the Application of the Basin Criteria and Quarter Section Criterion

Applying the Basin Criteria within the range of the Canadian population of Piping Plover circumcinctus identified 59 basins that are likely to contain critical habitat for this population (Table 1). Application of these criteria necessarily excluded some basins used by Piping Plover circumcinctus if plovers were observed there infrequently or in low numbers. However, the 59 basins in Table 1 were nonetheless found to contain 90% of the surveyed Canadian circumcinctus population based on data from the 2006 International Piping Plover Breeding Census. These basins also contain sufficient habitat to support additional plovers, and to achieve the recovery goal for the Canadian population of Piping Plover circumcinctus, which was set at 1626 individuals over three international censuses in the 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada, 2006).

At this time, the application of the Quarter Section Criterion has identified 65 quarter sections that contain critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus within 20 of the 59 basins in Table 1. These 20 basins include seven basins within or adjacent to federal or federally-administered lands in Saskatchewan (Table 2), as well as 13 basins on non-federal lands in Alberta (Table 3). The Quarter Section Criterion was applied to all 15 basins in Alberta that met the Basin Criteria (and that are listed in Table 1). This resulted in the identification of quarter sections that contain critical habitat in 13 of the 15 basins. For these 13 basins, the precise locations of quarter sections that contain critical habitat are not specified. This critical habitat in Alberta was identified based on the Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Plan (Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team 2006), which uses letters to identify particular quarter-sections rather than providing specific locations of quarter sections. The province of Alberta used this approach to critical habitat identification in order to minimize disturbance to plovers and maintain anonymity of adjacent landowners. The precise locations of these quarter sections are not known by the federal government at this time.

The critical habitat in Alberta and Saskatchewan identified in this addendum was identified in cooperation with provincial authorities, and consultations with landowners and other interested parties have been completed to the extent possible. Additional sites across the range of the Canadian circumcinctus Piping Plover population that meet the Basin Criteria and the Quarter Section Criterion will be added to the list of critical habitat as additional information is gathered.

In order to identify critical habitat in the remaining basins, the following work must be completed: in Ontario, further cooperation is required with the province to define the criteria, including the appropriate land unit (comparable to quarter section), for the fine-scale identification of critical habitat; in Manitoba, further cooperation is required with the province to finalize the criteria and the appropriate land unit (comparable to quarter section) for the fine-scale identification of critical habitat, and in Saskatchewan, quality control and assurance need to be applied to the draft list of sites and we are in the midst of an ongoing survey to finalize that list of sites. This work is ongoing and we expect additional critical habitat will be identified by December 2007.

Predation is believed to be the primary factor affecting the recovery of the circumcinctus population of Piping Plover. Therefore, although the identification and protection of critical habitat is an important step to support the recovery goal for Piping Plover circumcinctus, it is only one component of the efforts being undertaken for the protection and recovery of this subspecies in Canada. Research and monitoring efforts, as well as habitat stewardship initiatives are also important to address known threats to Piping Plover circumcinctus and for the conservation, protection, and recovery of Piping Plover circumcinctus in Canada.

The federal Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP), administered by Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, has provided funding to stewardship and guardianship programs for Piping Plover circumcinctus in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. These programs have increased public awareness of this subspecies and the challenges it faces, and have contributed to hands-on management, installation of predator exclosures, and monitoring of nests. HSP has also provided funding to support fencing of shorelines and providing off-site watering to cattle, in order to prevent cattle from trampling plover nests on beaches.

Important research and monitoring activities for Piping Plover circumcinctus are also ongoing across its Canadian range. These include enhanced monitoring at selected sites in the prairies, and research by Environment Canada officials in Saskatchewan that aims to clarify information on productivity and survival for this species in order to enable more accurate population dynamics modeling to support future conservation efforts.

These stewardship and protection efforts are longstanding in many cases, and have already contributed to positive outcomes for the Canadian population of Piping Plover circumcinctus.  The 2006 International Piping Plover Breeding Census showed an overall 77% increase in the surveyed Canadian circumcinctus population compared to the 2001 Census.  While ongoing survey work will be required to confirm that this population increase is sustained over time, the 2006 census numbers provide a positive preliminary indication that important progress in being made towards achieving the recovery goal for this species.