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Recovery Strategy for the Gattinger's Agalinis (Agalinis gattingeri) in Canada - 2017 [Proposed]

Part 3 – Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod – Ontario Government Response Statement, prepared by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

Natural. Valued. Protected.

Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod – Ontario Government Response Statement

Photo of part 3 document cover

Gattinger's Agalinis is a small annual plant, less than 15 cm tall, with pale pink, funnel-shaped flowers at the end of slender stalks.

Houghton's Goldenrod is a perennial plant in the Aster family measuring 30 to 60 cm high that produces bright yellow flowers after a few years.

Protecting and recovering species at risk in Ontario

Species at risk recovery is a key part of protecting Ontario's biodiversity. Biodiversity – the variety of living organisms on Earth – provides us with clean air and water, food, fibre, medicine and other resources that we need to survive.

The Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) is the Government of Ontario's legislative commitment to protecting and recovering species at risk and their habitats. As soon as a species is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under the ESA, it is automatically protected from harm or harassment. Also, immediately upon listing, the habitats of endangered and threatened species are protected from damage or destruction.

Under the ESA, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (the Ministry) must ensure that a recovery strategy is prepared for each species that is listed as endangered or threatened. A recovery strategy provides science-based advice to government on what is required to achieve recovery of a species.

Government response statements

Within nine months after a recovery strategy is prepared, the ESA requires the Ministry to publish a statement summarizing the government's intended actions and priorities in response to the recovery strategy. The recovery strategies for Gattinger's Agalinis (Agalinis gattingeri) and Houghton's Goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) in Ontario were completed on June 25, 2015.

The response statement is the government's policy response to the scientific advice provided in the recovery strategy. All recommendations provided in the recovery strategy were considered and this response statement identifies those that are considered to be appropriate and necessary for the protection and recovery of the species. In addition to the strategy, the response statement is based on input from stakeholders, other jurisdictions,

Aboriginal communities and members of the public. It reflects the best available traditional, local and scientific knowledge at this time and may be adapted if new information becomes available. In implementing the actions in the response statement, the ESA allows the Ministry to determine what is feasible, taking into account social and economic factors.

Given their similar distribution, habitat, and threats, the recovery efforts for Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod are addressed collectively in a single government response statement. The combined government response statement also recognizes the importance of collaborative implementation of recovery actions with partners across the species' range.

Moving forward to protect and recover Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod

Gattinger's Agalinis is listed as an endangered species and Houghton's Goldenrod is listed as a threatened species under the ESA, which protects both the plants and their habitat. The ESA prohibits harm or harassment of the species and damage or destruction of their habitat without authorization. Such authorization would require that conditions established by the Ministry be met.

Gattinger's Agalinis

The global range of this annual plant extends from Ontario and Manitoba to Nebraska, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. In the United States, Gattinger's Agalinis is found in 18 states; it is considered rare in 10 states and common in the other eight states. The majority of the Canadian population of Gattinger's Agalinis is found in Ontario with 26 of the 31 occurrence locations.

In Ontario, Gattinger's Agalinis is found on Manitoulin Island, the Bruce Peninsula, and Walpole Island, as well as on smaller islands in the North Channel of Lake Huron. The majority of the occurrences, including the most abundant, are in areas managed by Aboriginal communities.

The current Ontario population size is estimated at 70,000 individuals (2010) but it is difficult to estimate given that population sizes fluctuate from year to year, and the size of the seed bank is not known. Other than on Walpole Island, there is little information on population trends because most sites have had only one observation. Further research on habitat requirements, general species' biology, responses to habitat management techniques, and monitoring work, would support effective protection and recovery actions in Ontario.

Houghton's Goldenrod

The global range of this perennial plant is limited to areas on or near the northern shores of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. There is one group of populations that occurs in the state of Michigan and around the Straits of Mackinac that includes the Ontario population on Cockburn Island. Another group of populations occurs at the eastern end of the Manitoulin Island region, and a single population occurs on the Bruce Peninsula.

There are 33 populations of Houghton's Goldenrod in Ontario. Populations are found on lands owned or managed by private citizens, corporations, the Government of Ontario, and Aboriginal communities. It is currently not possible to determine population and abundance trends because most sites have had only one observation or lack abundance data. Several populations and a large number of individual plants are on lands managed by Aboriginal communities in the Manitoulin region.

Recent research on Houghton's Goldenrod suggests that there may be complexities associated with the genetic origins of the species. Specifically, it is not known at this time whether the Cockburn Island population may be a genetically distinct entity from the other Ontario populations occurring in the Manitoulin Region and on the Bruce Peninsula. Further research on the species' genetics, as well as integral population monitoring work, and research on habitat requirements and the species' biology would support future protection and recovery activities.

Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod

Both Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod experience similar threats based on overlap in the areas they inhabit. Both species occur in sensitive ecosystems in Ontario, specifically alvars, dunes and prairies, and are threatened by loss of suitable habitat, primarily due to human impacts. These threats include development, trampling by pedestrians, all-terrain vehicles, pesticide usage, introduction of invasive species (e.g., Common Reed), and heavy machinery movements associated with industry activities. Nonnative and invasive species are often able to out compete native species for resources; invasive species present in the habitat of both Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod include Common Reed (Phragmites australis ssp. australis), Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis), and White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba). In addition to the introduction of invasive species, the general lack of public knowledge of alvar ecosystems and their sensitivity to disturbance poses a threat. Natural succession of woody plants, potentially due to fire suppression, as well as browsing and grazing of animals may also pose challenges to both species. Approaches to recovery will include protecting and managing habitat in collaboration with local landowners, partners, and Aboriginal communities, filling knowledge gaps, especially with regards to population trends, and research on the biology (e.g., mechanisms of pollination, seed dispersal and conditions for germination), habitat requirements and response to management techniques of both Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.

The government's goal for the recovery of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod is to maintain self-sustaining populations across their Ontario distribution by reducing threats to the species and their habitats to allow for natural increases.

Protecting and recovering species at risk is a shared responsibility. No single agency or organization has the knowledge, authority or financial resources to protect and recover all of Ontario's species at risk. Successful recovery requires inter-governmental co-operation and the involvement of many individuals, organizations and communities.

In developing the government response statement, the Ministry considered what actions are feasible for the government to lead directly and what actions are feasible for the government to support its conservation partners to undertake.

Government-led actions

To help protect and recover Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod, the government will directly undertake the following actions:

  • Continue to manage the habitat of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod in provincially protected areas to maintain the ecological integrity of their habitats and to minimize the threat of recreational pressures and impacts.
  • Continue to implement the Ontario Invasive Species Strategic Plan to address the invasive species (e.g., Common Reed) that threaten Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.
  • Educate other agencies and authorities involved in planning and environmental assessment processes on the protection requirements under the ESA.
  • Encourage the submission of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod data to the Ministry's central repository at the Natural Heritage Information Centre.
  • Undertake communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species at risk in Ontario.
  • Protect Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod and their habitat through the ESA.
  • Develop direction to provide greater clarity to proponents and partners on the areas of general habitat protected under the ESA for plant species at risk.
  • Support conservation, agency, municipal and industry partners, and Aboriginal communities and organizations to undertake activities to protect and recover Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod. Support will be provided where appropriate through funding, agreements, permits (including conditions) and/or advisory services.
  • Encourage collaboration, and establish and communicate annual priority actions for government support in order to reduce duplication of efforts.

Government-supported actions

The government endorses the following actions as being necessary for the protection and recovery of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod. Actions identified as "high" will be given priority consideration for funding under the ESA. Where reasonable, the government will also consider the priority assigned to these actions when reviewing and issuing authorizations under the Endangered Species Act. Other organizations are encouraged to consider these priorities when developing projects or mitigation plans related to species at risk. The government will focus its support on these high-priority actions over the next five years.

Focus area:
Habitat management and protection
Objective:
Work collaboratively to support landowners, land managers and Aboriginal communities in protecting and managing Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod habitat and reducing the threats to the species.

Habitat loss and degradation is the primary threat to both Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod. Working in collaboration with landowners, land managers, and Aboriginal communities many of whom are already undertaking actions to support the species, will ensure that the best available resources and information are being used to support the recovery of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.

Actions:
  1. (High) Implement best management practices in collaboration with landowners, land managers, municipalities, and Aboriginal communities to prevent and minimize impacts to Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod and their habitats. Actions may include:
    • erecting barriers, designating walkways, and constructing boardwalks to reduce trampling by pedestrians and all-terrain vehicles;
    • posting information signage in and around alvar, tallgrass prairie, and dune habitat areas used by the species on the sensitive nature of the ecosystems, the importance of limiting disturbance, and basic information on Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod;
    • removal of invasive species posing a direct threat to Gattinger's Agalinis or Houghton's Goldenrod;
    • thinning of the canopy and use of grazing treatments to maintain habitat conditions for the two species; and,
    • monitoring the species' and habitat responses to canopy thinning, invasive species control and grazing treatments to inform adaptive management of the habitat.
  2. As opportunities arise, support the securement of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod habitat that exists on privately owned lands through existing land securement and stewardship programs.
Focus area:
Research and monitoring
Objective:
Increase knowledge about the population dynamics and biology of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.

A greater understanding of the current population abundance of both Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod would support our ability to determine the progress and effectiveness of recovery actions and monitor population trends over time. Knowledge gaps, such as specific habitat requirements, site-specific threats, and the role of specific habitat management techniques, should also be addressed to help better inform the implementation of recovery actions for these species.

Actions:
  1. (High) Develop and implement a standardized long-term monitoring program at priority sites for Gattinger's Agalinis and for Houghton's Goldenrod in order to:
    • monitor population trends and demographics;
    • identify vegetation community types present; and,
    • assess and monitor all known and potential threats to populations.
  2. (High) Determine if the Cockburn Island population of Houghton's Goldenrod may be genetically distinct from populations occurring in alvar habitat outside of Cockburn Island.
  3. Conduct research on the species' habitat needs, specifically the moisture regime and microhabitat conditions that support Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.
  4. Research the species' life history characteristics and response to habitat management activities that will inform the implementation of recovery actions for each species. This may include:
    • conducting a population viability analysis;
    • studying mechanisms of pollination, seed dispersal and conditions for germination; and,
    • studying the potential role of prescribed burns in managing alvar habitats used by Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.
Focus area:
Awareness
Objective:
Increase public awareness of the presence, habitat requirements and threats to Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.

Community members, visitors, and managers/owners of the land all have a vital role to play in reducing threats to both species. By increasing the awareness of the species and its habitat amongst a broader public audience, individuals will be more inclined to take steps to prevent and reduce threats to the species across the landscape.

Actions:
  1. Increase awareness among land owners, municipalities, park and conservation reserve visitors, and Aboriginal communities by distributing information on Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod, such as:
    • how to identify the species;
    • the species' habitat requirements and the sensitivity of alvar ecosystems; and,
    • actions individuals can take to minimize threats to the species including habitat loss, invasive species, and trampling, and to report occurrence information.

Implementing actions

Financial support for the implementation of actions may be available through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Species at Risk Research Fund for Ontario, or the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program. Conservation partners are encouraged to discuss project proposals related to the actions in this response statement with the Ministry. The Ministry can also advise if any authorizations under the ESA or other legislation may be required to undertake the project.

Implementation of the actions may be subject to changing priorities across the multitude of species at risk, available resources and the capacity of partners to undertake recovery activities. Where appropriate, the implementation of actions for multiple species will be co-ordinated across government response statements.

Reviewing progress

The ESA requires the Ministry to conduct a review of progress towards protecting and recovering a species not later than five years from the publication of this response statement. The review will help identify if adjustments are needed to achieve the protection and recovery of Gattinger's Agalinis and Houghton's Goldenrod.

Acknowledgement

We would like to thank all those who participated in the development of the Recovery Strategy for the Gattinger's Agalinis (Agalinis gattingeri) in Ontario and the Recovery Strategy for the Houghton's Goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) in Ontario for their dedication to protecting and recovering species at risk.

For additional information

Visit the species at risk website at ontario.ca/speciesatrisk
Contact your MNR district office
Contact the Natural Resources Information Centre
1-800-667-1940
TTY 1-866-686-6072
mnr.nric.mnr@ontario.ca
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

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