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Recovery Strategy for the Hickorynut and the Kidneyshell [Final Version]

Potential Impacts of Recovery Strategy on Other Species/Ecological Processes:

The Round Hickorynut and Kidneyshell are sensitive species, particularly to issues of water quantity and quality. For this reason, we expect that efforts made to improve conditions for these mussels will benefit most other aquatic species. A few opportunistic species that can readily adapt to degraded conditions (e.g., giant floater (Pyganodon grandis) or fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)) may see a decline in numbers/range as a result of rehabilitative efforts. These changes should not be viewed in a negative light but rather as a restoration of the aquatic community to pre-disturbance conditions.

 5. Actions Already Completed or Underway

SydenhamRiver Aquatic Ecosystem Recovery Strategy: The Sydenham River Recovery Team became the first group in Canada to adopt an ecosystem approach to recovering aquatic species when they completed the Sydenham River Aquatic Ecosystem Recovery Strategy (SRAERS) in 2003 (Dextrase et al. 2003). The recovery strategy focuses on the 14 aquatic species (5 mussels, 8 fishes, 1 turtle) within the basin that are listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern by the COSEWIC. Both the Round Hickorynut and the Kidneyshell were listed after the SRAERS was completed and so these species are not directly considered within the strategy. Despite their exclusion from the strategy many of the actions proposed by Dextrase et al. (2003) to benefit the 5 included mussel species will be beneficial for recovery of these two species.

ThamesRiver Recovery Ecosystem Strategy: The Thames River Recovery Team (TRRT) has set out to develop an ecosystem based recovery strategy for the Thames River watershed. The stated goal is to develop “a recovery plan that improves the status of all aquatic species at risk in the Thames River through an ecosystem approach that sustains and enhances all native aquatic communities” (Thames River Recovery Team 2003). This recovery strategy addresses 25 COSEWIC listed species including 7 mussels, 12 fishes and 6 reptiles. Both the Round Hickorynut and the Kidneyshell are being considered in the development of this strategy as both species historically occurred within this watershed. Although neither species is still known to occur in the Thames River, recovery actions proposed by the TRRT will increase the likelihood that Recovery habitat for these species in the Thames River will prove suitable for possible future repatriations. 

AusableRiver Ecosystem Recovery Strategy: The Ausable River Recovery Team is developing an ecosystem Recovery Strategy for the 14 COSEWIC listed aquatic species in the Ausable River basin. This plan covers 4 endangered mussel species including the Kidneyshell. The overall goal of the strategy is to “sustain a healthy native aquatic community in the Ausable River through an ecosystem approach that focuses on species at risk “(Ausable River Recovery Team 2004). The Ausable River Recovery Team (2004) has also established a species-specific recovery goal for all mussels of “maintain(ing) existing populations of species at risk and restor(ing) self-sustaining populations of each species to areas of the river where they formerly occurred.

Grand River Fish Species at Risk Recovery Strategy: The Grand River Recovery Team has developed a draft recovery strategy for fish species at risk in the Grand River. The goal of this strategy is “to conserve and enhance the native fish community using sound science, community involvement and habitat improvement measures” (Portt et al. 2003). Although the strategy does not directly address any mussels species, their “habitat preferences and requirements will be taken into account when assessing management actions targeting fish species at risk. In most cases, it is anticipated that recovery actions benefiting fishes at risk will also benefit these other rare species” (Portt et al. 2003).

WalpoleIslandEcosystem Recovery Strategy: The Walpole Island Ecosystem Recovery Strategy Team was established in 2001 to develop an ecosystem based recovery strategy for the area containing the St. Clair delta with the goal of outlining steps to maintain or rehabilitate the ecosystem and species at risk (Walpole Island Heritage Centre 2002). The strategy identifies all known COSEWIC designated species within Walpole Island First Nation, both aquatic and terrestrial. 

Fish Host Identification: A research group led by Dr. J. Ackerman and Dr. G. L. Mackie has been established at the University of Guelph to investigate aspects of the reproductive cycle of freshwater mussels (host fish determination, glochidial development, juvenile growth and survival). The group conducts its research at the Hagen Aqua Lab on the grounds of the university in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. This facility has been used to investigate potential hosts for four species of endangered mussels including the Kidneyshell (McNichols and Mackie 2003). In 2003 they identified three host species for the Kidneyshell (blackside darter, Johnny darter, fantail darter) but have yet to attempt to identify or confirm the host for the Round Hickorynut (McNichols and Mackie 2004).  

 Stewardship Activities: Stewardship programs have been available in the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority in 2000 for projects involving tree planting; stream stabilization; wetland creation; buffer strips; grassed waterways; sediment traps; repair or replacement of faulty septic systems; manure storage facilities; clean water diversions; runoff collection systems; fencing livestock from watercourses; plugging and repairing wells and nutrient management plans.  Implementation of these projects improves and protects rural water quality, and the habitat for aquatic species at risk.

                        Currently, the Ausable-Bayfield Conservation Authority is able to provide funding for stewardship activities such as: tree planting, windbreaks, buffer strips, Nutrient Management Plans, well-decommissioning, wellhead protection, livestock washwater, manure spreading equipment modifications, conservation tillage modifications, clean water diversion, livestock restriction, fertilizer, fuel and chemical storage and handling, erosion control, conservation tillage equipment modifications and septic system upgrades.  Implementation of these projects improves water quality and habitat for aquatic species at risk.

                        Stewardship activities occurring throughout the ranges of these two mussels are able to occur, in large part, because of funding obtained through the federal Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP).

Mussel Monitoring Network: Fifteen permanent monitoring stations for mussels have been established on the Sydenham River and a further 6 on the Thames River. Additional stations will be located on the Ausable River during 2006. These sites will be part of an ongoing monitoring system as part of the Sydenham, Ausable and Thames ecosystem recovery strategies and will provide quantitative trend through time data to evaluate recovery actions as well as the overall status of mussel communities.  

Nutrient Management Act:  Implementation of this provincial legislation, which came into force September 30 2003, will regulate the storage and use of nutrients including manure, farmyard run-off and farm washwater.  This should reduce nutrient inputs to the watercourses, which will benefit the aquatic habitats of the mussels. 

Source Protection Planning: A White Paper on Watershed-based Source Protection Planning was released in February 2004. Source Protection Planning will identify potential sources of contamination to the surface water and groundwater, determine how much water is readily available, evaluate where that water is vulnerable to contamination and implement programs to minimize risk of contamination to water quality as well as minimizing threats to water quantity.   

6.Action Plans

One or more action plans relating to this recovery strategy will be produced within 5 years of the strategy being completed. Wherever possible action plans should be linked to existing watershed recovery teams.  Recovery resources in southwestern Ontario (both fiscal and personnel) are limited. Partnership with these other recovery teams will ensure that efforts are not duplicated and will help to prevent the implementation of recovery efforts for differing species that may conflict. 

7. Evaluation

The routine monitoring programs will provide the primary means of evaluating the success of the listed recovery approaches. The monitoring programs will provide trend through time data allowing the tracking of Round Hickorynut and Kidneyshell populations and habitat and will form the basis of an adaptive management program. Recovery Implementation Groups will develop specific targets in the Recovery Action Plans to provide a further basis for evaluating success. The entire Recovery Strategy will be reviewed in 5 years at which time all goals, objectives and approaches will be re-evaluated.