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Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Canada - 2016

Part 1 - Federal Addition to the Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Ontario, prepared by Environment and Climate Change Canada


The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species and are required to report on progress within five years after the publication of the final document on the SAR Public Registry.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Cherry Birch and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of Ontario led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the Cherry Birch (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada. The province of Ontario also led the development of the attached Government Response Statement (Part 3), which is the Ontario Government’s policy response to its provincial recovery strategy and summarizes the prioritized actions that the Ontario government intends to take and support.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment and Climate Change Canada, or any other jurisdiction alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Cherry Birch and Canadian society as a whole.

This recovery strategy will be followed by one or more action plans that will provide information on recovery measures to be taken by Environment and Climate Change Canada and other jurisdictions and/or organizations involved in the conservation of the species. Implementation of this strategy is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.

The recovery strategy sets the strategic direction to arrest or reverse the decline of the species, including identification of critical habitat to the extent possible. It provides all Canadians with information to help take action on species conservation. When critical habitat is identified, either in a recovery strategy or an action plan, there may be future regulatory implications, depending on where the critical habitat is identified. SARA requires that critical habitat identified within a national park named and described in Schedule 1 to the Canada National Parks Act, the Rouge National Urban Park established by the Rouge National Urban Park Act, a marine protected area under the Oceans Act, a migratory bird sanctuary under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 or a national wildlife area under the Canada Wildlife Act be described in the Canada Gazette, after which prohibitions against its destruction will apply. For critical habitat located on other federal lands, the competent minister must either make a statement on existing legal protection or make an order so that the prohibition against destruction of critical habitat applies. For any part of critical habitat located on non-federal lands, if the competent minister forms the opinion that any portion of critical habitat is not protected by provisions in or measures under SARA or other Acts of Parliament, or the laws of the province or territory, SARA requires that the Minister recommend that the Governor in Council make an order to prohibit destruction of critical habitat. The discretion to protect critical habitat on non-federal lands that is not otherwise protected rests with the Governor in Council.


The initial drafts of this recovery strategy addition were written by Judith Jones (Winter Spider Eco-consulting) and Holly Bickerton (Consulting Ecologist).  Additional preparation and review of the document was completed by Angela McConnell, Angela Darwin, Lee Voisin (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario) and Paul Johanson (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – National Capital Region).  Amelia Argue (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) and Sean Fox (University of Guelph Arboretum) provided information that was helpful in the development of the strategy. Madeline Austen, Krista Holmes and Lesley Dunn (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario) and Aileen Rapson, Amanda Fracz, Eric Snyder, Mike Oldham, Sam Brinker, David Bradley and Jim Mackenzie (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) reviewed and provided comments and advice during the development of this document.

Acknowledgement and thanks is given to all other parties that provided advice and input used to help inform the development of this recovery strategy including various Aboriginal organizations and individuals, landowners, citizens and stakeholders who provided input and/or participated in consultation meetings.

Additions and Modifications to the Adopted Document

The following sections have been included to address specific requirements of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) that are not addressed in the Province of Ontario's Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Ontario (Part 2) and to provide updated and additional information.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is adopting the Ontario recovery strategy (Part 2) with the exception of section 2, Recovery.  In place of section 2, Environment and Climate Change Canada has established a population and distribution objective based on the provincial recovery goal and is adopting the government-led and government-supported actions set out in the Cherry Birch - Ontario Government Response StatementFootnote 2 (Part 3) as the broad strategies and general approaches to meet the population and distribution objectives.

Under SARA, there are specific requirements and processes set out regarding the protection of critical habitat. Therefore, statements in the provincial recovery strategy referring to protection of the species’ habitat may not directly correspond to federal requirements. Recovery measures dealing with the protection of habitat are adopted; however, whether these measures will result in protection of critical habitat under SARA will be assessed following publication of the final federal recovery strategy.

1. Species Status Information

The Cherry Birch is listed as EndangeredFootnote 3 on Schedule 1 of SARA. In Ontario, it is listed as EndangeredFootnote 4 under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).

The Cherry Birch's global conservation status is SecureFootnote 5 (G5). In Canada, the species' conservation status is Critically Imperilled (N1). It is also considered Critically Imperilled (S1) within Ontario. In the United States, the species' national conservation status is Secure (N5) and it is considered Critically Imperilled to Secure (S1-S5) in 20 American states within its range (NatureServe 2014; Appendix A).

It is estimated that less than 1% of the species' global range occurs in Canada (COSEWIC 2006).

2. Recovery Feasibility Summary

Based on the following four criteria that Environment and Climate Change Canada uses to establish recovery feasibility, there are unknowns regarding the feasibility of recovery of the Cherry Birch. In keeping with the precautionary principle, a full recovery strategy has been prepared as would be done when recovery is determined to be feasible.

  1. Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance.

    Yes. Recent (2010) fieldwork confirmed the presence of nine naturally occurring young trees located in the Niagara Region (Ontario), with nine additional living trees, derived from seeds from the naturally occurring trees, located nearby. At least 44 other trees planted at the Guelph Arboretum in Ontario were grown from the seed of trees in the Niagara Region, and seeds from these trees could be made available for restoration (COSEWIC 2006, Zoladeski and Hayes 2013, S. Fox pers. comm. 2014). Both planted and natural individuals produce seeds (and thus are capable of reproduction). Cherry Birch is also present and not at risk in adjacent New York state, and it may be possible to introduce trees from nearby populations, if necessary, to achieve the population and distribution objective. If this is necessary, introduction would benefit from further study (e.g., genetic work). Genetic pressure from isolation may be affecting this small population, although it is not known what the long term effects may be.

  2. Sufficient suitable habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration.

    Unknown. Very little natural woodland remains in the Niagara Region due to land conversion to agricultural and urban uses. Areas of apparently suitable habitat exist and have been surveyed for the species, yet for unknown reasons, they do not currently support Cherry Birch. The area where the trees currently occur naturally is surrounded by residential development, and is at risk of erosion caused by storms (COSEWIC 2006).

    Thus, suitable habitat appears to be a limiting factor, and exact micro-habitat requirements remain unknown. It has been suggested that suitable habitat may also be present between the Ottawa Valley and Montreal (COSEWIC 2006); however, Cherry Birch has not been documented from this region since the late 1950s (Gillet 1958).

  3. The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside Canada) can be avoided or mitigated.

    Unknown. Of the primary threats to the species, habitat loss and degradation can be mitigated or avoided through stewardship and protection activities. However, it may be impossible to mitigate natural events such as shoreline erosion. Additionally, the impact of genetic isolation on the survival of the species is unknown.

  4. Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable timeframe.

    Yes. Cherry Birch is readily grown from seed (COSEWIC 2006; Kock 1998) and is a prolific seed producer (S. Fox pers. comm. 2014). Trees of this species have been successfully grown at the Guelph Arboretum and other areas of the Niagara Region, and are sometimes planted as landscape trees in the United States (University of Connecticut 2014). Cultivation is likely a feasible recovery technique for this species and seed from the Canadian population is available. If necessary, genetic material from outside populations (the closest populations are in New York) could be sought to reduce the risk of inbreeding of Canada's single, small population, while ensuring that new plants are suitably adapted to the climate.

3. Population and Distribution Objectives

The provincial Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Ontario contains the following recovery goal:

  • The recovery goal is to ensure continued persistence of Cherry Birch at known sites in Ontario with no further decline in population size in the short-term and an increase in population size in the long-term.

The Cherry Birch - Ontario Government Response Statement contains the following goal for the recovery of the Cherry Birch in Ontario:

  • The government's goal for the recovery of the Cherry Birch is to maintain the persistence of Cherry Birch at or above current population levels within its current distribution in Ontario.

Under SARA, population and distribution objectives for the species must be established. The population and distribution objective  established by Environment and Climate Change Canada for Cherry Birch is:

  • To maintain the abundance and distribution of the naturally occurring Cherry Birch population in Canada and, if biologically and technically feasible, increase the population abundance.

Currently, the Canadian populationFootnote 6 occurs at one location (15 Mile Creek), represented by nine trees, which reside in a single tract of natural forest. Nearby this population, there are an additional nine Cherry Birch trees that have been planted. Planted Cherry Birch trees are not currently being considered as existing/extant populations (or portions thereof) in the above objective. Continued monitoring to determine planting success, viability and probability of persistence must precede their inclusion. These plants may be considered as part of the objective in the future following a better understanding of their ability to support and contribute to long-term recovery. Therefore, although the province of Ontario considers the population of Cherry Birch to include 18 individuals, nine of which have been planted, this federal recovery strategy sets a population and distribution objective for the nine naturally occurring individuals.

The population of Cherry Birch has steadily declined since the late 1960s (COSEWIC 2006). The most immediate threat to this population is shoreline erosion; one sub-population has recently been entirely lost due to erosion caused by storms in 2004 and 2005 (Zoladeski and Hayes 2013).

It is not known whether the current number of trees, compounded by the fact that they all occur in one location, will be sufficient to ensure the persistence of the Cherry Birch population in Canada. The broad strategies adopted from the Cherry Birch - Ontario Government Response Statement work towards the recovery of this species, including determining the feasibility of seedling propagation and planting in suitable habitat. Working with partners and private landowners to maintain natural forests and implement mitigation techniques to manage erosion and herbivory is also important to the recovery of Cherry Birch in Canada. The feasibility of recovery will be reviewed and updated within five years of the final posting of this document.

4. Broad Strategies and General Approaches to Meet Objectives

The government-led and government-supported actions tables from the Cherry BirchOntario Government Response Statement (Part 3) are adopted as the broad strategies and general approaches to meet the population and distribution objectives. Environment and Climate Change Canada is not adopting the approaches identified in section 2.3 of the Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Ontario (Part 2).

5. Critical Habitat

5.1 Identification of the Species' Critical Habitat

Section 41 (1)(c) of SARA requires that recovery strategies include an identification of the species' critical habitat, to the extent possible, as well as examples of activities that are likely to result in its destruction. Under SARA, critical habitat is "the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species' critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species".

Identification of critical habitat is not a component of provincial recovery strategies under the Province of Ontario's ESA. Under the ESA, when a species becomes listed as endangered or threatened on the Species at Risk in Ontario List, it automatically receives general habitat protection. Cherry Birch currently receives general habitat protection under the ESA; however, a description of the general habitat has not yet been developed. In some cases, a habitat regulation may be developed that replaces the general habitat protection. A habitat regulation is a legal instrument that prescribes an area that will be protected as the habitat of the species by the Province of Ontario. A habitat regulation has not been developed for Cherry Birch under the ESA.

This federal recovery strategy identifies critical habitat for Cherry Birch to the extent possible, based on the best available information as of August 2014. Critical habitat is identified for the one extant population of Cherry Birch in Ontario (Figure 1; see also Table 1) and is sufficient to meet the population and distribution objectives; therefore it is considered a full identification of critical habitat and a schedule of studies is not required. Additional critical habitat may be added in the future if new or additional information supports the inclusion of areas beyond those currently identified (e.g., new sites become colonized in adjacent areas).

Critical habitat is not identified for individual trees or groups of trees which have been planted in landscape settings for horticultural purposes, such as in urban gardens or arboretums. At this time, sites where Cherry Birch has been planted as part of a habitat restoration, rehabilitation, or creation program are not being considered for critical habitat identification until it can be determined that the plantings are successful. Determination of restoration success and viability, as measured through plant vigour and fitness, must precede identification of critical habitat at such sites. Critical habitat may be identified following long-term monitoring to determine success, extent of suitable habitat, and site occupancy. It should be noted, however, that these individuals may contain important genetic material for recovery and are protected under the prohibitions listed in the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).

The identification of critical habitat for Cherry Birch is based on two criteria: habitat occupancy and habitat suitability.

5.1.1 Habitat Occupancy

This criterion refers to areas of suitable habitat where there is a reasonable degree of certainty of current use by the species.

  • Habitat is considered occupied when one or more naturally-occurring Cherry Birch individuals have been observed in any single year since 1994 in suitable habitat. If field surveys by a qualified individual (e.g., forester or biologist with botanical knowledge and preferably with experience undertaking surveys for B. lenta) determines that no living Cherry Birch individuals (e.g., rametsFootnote 7, saplings or trees) are extant at a site, the site is considered unoccupied.

Habitat occupancy is based on recent survey information (C. Zoladeski pers. comm. 2014; COSEWIC 2006) and allows for the inclusion of the one population known to be extant. Although trees were confirmed, detailed locations of the individual trees are not currently available. Supplementary surveys may be required to describe the specific locations of Cherry Birch trees in Canada, yet in the interim broader habitat information (of the occupied forest tract) is available and will guide recovery planning until more detailed information is available.

5.1.2 Habitat Suitability

Habitat suitability relates to areas possessing a specific set of biophysical attributes that can support individuals of the species in carrying out essential aspects of their lifecycle. The Canadian population of Cherry Birch occurs in a forest that includes Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) and Eastern Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). The closest U.S. population, found in New York, is associated with Sugar and Red Maple (Acer rubrum), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Black Cherry, Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) and Chestnut Oak (Quercus prinus) (COSEWIC 2006; Zoladeski and Hayes 2013). Cherry Birch appears to be associated more with site conditions (e.g., open canopy) than with specific tree species compositions.

The biophysical attributes of suitable habitat for Cherry Birch in Canada include:

  • Areas of clay loam, sandy, or rocky, coarse textured, soils;
  • Full sun or open canopy, and;
  • Deciduous or mixed woodland and woodland floodplain.

Based on the best available information, suitable habitat for the Cherry Birch is currently defined as the extent of the biophysical attributes where Cherry Birch exists in Ontario. In addition to the suitable habitat, a critical root zone of 20 m (radial distance) is applied when the biophysical attributes around a Cherry Birch individual extend for less than 20 m.

In Ontario, suitable habitat for the Cherry Birch is described using the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) framework for Southern Ontario (from Lee et al. 1998). The ELC framework provides a standardized approach to the interpretation and delineation of dynamic ecosystem boundaries. The ELC approach classifies habitats not only by vegetation community but also considers soil moisture conditions and topography, and as such provides a basis for describing the ecosystem requirements (e.g., local effects of the associated hydrologic regime, canopy cover) and encompasses the biophysical attributes of suitable habitat for the Cherry Birch. In Ontario, ELC terminology and methods are familiar to many land managers and conservation practitioners who have adopted this tool as the standard approach for Ontario.

Within the ELC system in Ontario, the ecosite boundary best captures the extent of biophysical attributes required by the species. The ELC ecosite includes the areas occupied by Cherry Birch and the surrounding area that provides suitable habitat conditions (e.g., full sun or open canopy) to carry out essential life processes for the species and should allow for natural processes related to population dynamics and reproduction (e.g., dispersal and pollination) to occur. Currently, the ELC ecosite(s) that contain existing Cherry Birch individuals is not known. Additional habitat assessments are required to describe and map the specific ELC ecosites currently occupied by Cherry Birch in Canada.

A radial distance of 20 m is based on a critical root radius definition, calculated as 1.5 feet of radius for each inch of the diameter at breast height (dbh) of a tree (or 18 cm per one cm of the dbh) (Johnson 1999). Given that the maximum recorded dbh for Cherry Birch in Canada is 95 cm (COSEWIC 2006), the critical root radius is calculated to be 20 m (95 cm x 18 cm = 17.1 m rounded up to the nearest 5 metres).

The critical root radius is used as a precautionary measure to define a zone surrounding the tree to prevent damage or disturbance (such as soil compaction) to the roots, driplineFootnote 8 and soil.

The area within the critical root zone may include both suitable and unsuitable habitat as to protect individual Cherry Birch trees, which may be found near the transition area/zone between suitable and unsuitable habitat (e.g., along the woodland or forest edges). At present, it is not clear at what exact distances physical and/or biological processes begin to negatively affect Cherry Birch. Recent studies show that the magnitude and distance of edge effects will vary depending on the structure and composition of adjacent habitat types (Harper et al. 2005). As new information on species' habitat requirements, site-specific characteristics, and newly germinated trees becomes available, more critical habitat may be identified.

5.1.3 Application of the Criteria to Identify Critical Habitat for Cherry Birch

Critical habitat for Cherry Birch is identified as the extent of suitable habitat (section 5.1.2) where the occupancy criterion (section 5.1.1) is met. In cases where the suitable habitat extends for less than 20 m around a Cherry Birch individual, a critical root zone capturing an area within a radial distance of 20 m is also included as critical habitat.

In Ontario, as noted above, suitable habitat for Cherry Birch is most appropriately identified as the ELC ecosite. At the present time, the ecosite descriptions and boundaries are not available to support the identification of critical habitat for populations in Ontario. In the interim, ELC community series level is identified as the area within which critical habitat is found. In Ontario, critical habitat is located within these boundaries where the biophysical attributes (section 5.1.2) are found and where the occupancy criterion (section 5.1.1) is met. When ecosite boundaries are determined, the identification of critical habitat will be updated.

Application of the critical habitat criteria to available information identifies one unit of critical habitat for the one extant population (15 Mile Creek) of Cherry Birch in Canada (Figure 1, See also Table 1), totaling up to 2 haFootnote 9 .

Critical habitat for Cherry Birch is presented using 1 x 1 km UTM grid squares. The UTM grid squares presented in Figure 1 are part of a standardized grid system that indicates the general geographic areas containing critical habitat, for land use planning and/or environmental assessment purposes. In addition to providing these benefits, the 1 km x 1 km UTM grid respects data-sharing agreements with the Province of Ontario. Critical habitat within each grid square occurs where the description of habitat occupancy (section 5.1.1) and habitat suitability (section 5.1.2) are met. Features such as existing human-made features (e.g., existing infrastructure including homes, buildings, roads, swimming pools), or portions of water bodies (e.g. Lake Ontario) are not necessary for the survival or recovery of the species and are therefore not critical habitat. More detailed information to support protection of the species and its habitat may be requested on a need-to-know basis by contacting Environment and Climate Change Canada – Canadian Wildlife Service at ec.planificationduretablissement‑

Figure 1. Grid square that contains critical habitat for Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Canada. Critical habitat for Cherry Birch occurs within this 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid square (red hatched outline), where the criteria described in Section 5 are met.
Grid square that contains critical habitat for Cherry Birch
Long description for Figure 1

Figure 1 shows the location of the grid square in southern Ontario, slightly east of St. Catharines, Ontario.

Table 1. Grid square that contains critical habitat for Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Canada. Critical habitat for Cherry Birch occurs within this 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid square where the criteria described in Section 5 are met.
Population1 x 1 km Standardized UTM Grid Square IDFootnote aUTM Grid Square CoordinatesFootnote b
UTM Grid Square CoordinatesFootnote b
Critical habitat unit area (ha)Footnote cLand tenure
15 Mile Creek17PH386263600047820002Non-federal


Footnote a

Based on the standard UTM Military Grid Reference System (see Finding UTM References), where the first two digits represent the UTM Zone, the following two letters indicate the 100 x 100 km standardized UTM grid followed by two digits to represent the 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. This unique alphanumeric code is based on the methodology produced from the Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada (See Bird Studies Canada for more information on breeding bird atlases).The last 2 digits represent the 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. This unique alphanumeric code is based on the methodology produced from the Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada (See Bird Studies Canada website for more information on breeding bird atlases).

Return to footnote a referrer

Footnote b

The listed coordinates are a cartographic representation of where critical habitat can be found, presented as the southwest corner of the 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid square containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. The coordinates may not fall within critical habitat and are provided as a general location only.

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Footnote c

The area presented is an approximation of the area of critical habitat (rounded up to the nearest 1 ha); the actual area of critical habitat would require field verification.

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5.2 Activities Likely to Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat

Understanding what constitutes destruction of critical habitat is necessary for the protection and management of critical habitat. Destruction is determined on a case by case basis. Destruction would result if part of the critical habitat was degraded, either permanently or temporarily, such that it would not serve its function when needed by the species. Destruction may result from a single activity or multiple activities at one point in time or from the cumulative effects of one or more activities over time. Activities described in Table 2 include those likely to cause destruction of critical habitat for the species; however, destructive activities are not limited to those listed.

Table 2. Activities Likely to Destroy Critical Habitat of Cherry Birch
Description of ActivityDescription of effect in relation to function loss of critical habitatDetails of effect
Development and conversion of lands (e.g., to residential, commercial, roadways).Development through land clearing or construction results in a direct loss of soil substrate which is required for successful germination of Cherry Birch. Construction also results in a dramatic change in habitat features such as canopy structure, associated species, and hydrologyFootnote d of an area which the species relies upon for basic survival, successful seed germination and seedling establishment, and may ultimately lead to its extirpationFootnote e from the site.If this activity were to occur within the bounds of critical habitat at any time of the year, effects would be direct, and would be highly likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat. Any removal or alteration of critical habitat could compromise the long-term sustainability of the population, because the population is so small and suitable habitat appears to be limiting.
Landscaping activities (e.g., removal of native vegetation, planting of non-native plant species).Landscaping activities might prevent the establishment of Cherry Birch seedlings by altering the associated plant community composition or soil structure, and could increase the likelihood of invasion by non-native plants by disturbing or removing native ground cover, and/or by introducing non-native plants and/or propagules through contaminated soil.If this activity were to occur within the bounds of critical habitat, at any time of the year, it is likely to cause the destruction of critical habitat.
Introduction of exotic or invasive speciesPlanting of exotic or invasive species might prevent the establishment of Cherry Birch seedlings by altering the associated plant community and lead to competition for resources.If this activity was to occur within the bounds of critical habitat, at any time of the year, it is likely to cause the destruction of critical habitat.


Footnote d

Hydrology of an area refers to the movement, distribution, quality, and quantity of water in that area.

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Footnote e

Extirpation: No longer existing at a particular site.

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6. Measuring Progress

The performance indicators presented below provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution objective. Every five years, success of recovery strategy implementation will be measured against the following performance indicator:

  • Population abundance and distribution of the naturally occurring population have been maintained at 2014 levels or increased.

7. Statement on Action Plans

One or more action plans will be completed for the Cherry Birch and posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry by 2023.

8. Effects on the Environment and Other Species

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making and to evaluate whether the outcomes of a recovery planning document could affect any component of the environment or any of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's (FSDS) goals and targets.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below in this statement.

The Cherry Birch remains at only one site in Ontario, which is very limited in size. Despite surveys of this site by several biologists over the past three decades (e.g. J. Ambrose 1984, R. Thompson 1992, J. Ambrose et al. (2004-5), Zoladeski and Hayes (surveys in 2010), no other species at risk have been identified and noted at this site or in the immediate area (COSEWIC 2006; Zoladeski and Hayes 2013). Forest cover is very limited within the Niagara Region, and conservation of this small area is likely to be of broad benefit to other species, and to regional biodiversity. Finally, broad approaches to recovery of this species, including all government-led and government supported actions adopted within this document, are currently limited to monitoring, habitat protection, stewardship, and possibly reintroduction, if necessary to meet the population and distribution objective. Recovery approaches do not include any habitat management activities (e.g. invasive species control, tree thinning or brush removal, or prescribed burning) that have the potential to impact non-target species.

Consequently, the SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail significant adverse effects. For further details, the reader should refer to the following sections of the document, in particular: habitat needs (Part 2, section 1.4), knowledge gaps (Part 2, section 1.7) and the government-led and government-supported actions tables from Ontario's Government Response Statement for Cherry Birch (Part 3).


COSEWIC. 2006. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the cherry birch Betula lenta in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 16 pp.

Fox, S., pers. comm. 2014. Personal communication with H. Bickerton, April 2014. Assistant Manager, Arboretum, University of Guelph.

Gillett, J.M. 1958. Checklist of plants of the Ottawa district. Canada Department of Agriculture. Ottawa.

Harper, K.A., S.E. Macdonald, P.J. Burton, J. Chen, K. D. Brosofske, S.C. Saunders, E.S. Euskirchen, D. Roberts, M.S. Jaitech, and P.A. Esseen. 2005. Edge influence on forest structure and composition in fragmented landscapes. Conservation Biology 19: 768-782.

Johnson, G. R. 1999. Protecting trees from construction damage: a homeowner's guide. Minnesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota.

Kock, H. 1998. Growing Native Plants from Seed Manual, 10th ed. University of Guelph Arboretum, Guelph, Ontario.

Lee, H. T., W. D. Bakowsky, J. Riley, J. Bowles, M. Puddister, P. Uhlig, and S. McMurray. 1998. Ecological Land Classification for Southern Ontario: First Approximation and Its Application. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, South Central Science Section, Science Development and Transfer Branch.

NatureServe 2014. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopaedia of life. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. [Accessed: February 7, 2014].

University of Connecticut. 2014. University of Connecticut Plant Database of Trees, Shrubs and Vines. [Accessed February 17, 2014].

Zoladeski, C. and K. Hayes. 2013. Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Ontario. Ontario Recovery Strategy Series. Prepared for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Peterborough, Ontario. vi + 12 pp.

Zoladeski, C. pers. comm. 2014. To Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region, July 2014. Co-author of the Recovery Strategy for Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Ontario.

Appendix A: Subnational Conservation Ranks of Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Canada and the United States

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Cherry Birch (Betula lenta)
Global (G) RankNational (N) Rank (Canada)Sub-national (S) Rank (Canada)National (N) Rank (United States)Sub-national (S) Rank (United States)
G5N1Ontario (S1)N5Alabama (SNR), Connecticut (SNR), Delaware (S4), Georgia (SNR), Kentucky (S5), Maine (SNR), Maryland (SNR), Massachusetts (SNR), New Hampshire (SNR), New Jersey (S5), New York (S5), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (SNR), Pennsylvania (S5), Rhode Island (SNR), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Vermont (SNR), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S5)

Rank Definitions (NatureServe 2014)

N1/S1: Critically Imperilled
At very high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction (i.e., N - nation, or S - state/province) due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.
S4: Apparently Secure
At a fairly low risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to an extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences but with possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats or other factors.
G5/N5/S5: Secure
At very low risk of extinction or elimination due to a very extensive range, abundant populations or occurrences, and little to no concern from declines or threats.
SNR: Unranked
National or subnational conservation status not yet assessed.

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Footnote 2

The Government Response Statement is the Ontario Government's policy response to the recovery strategy and summarizes the prioritized actions that the Ontario Government intends to take and support.

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Footnote 3

Endangered: A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction in Canada.

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Footnote 4

Endangered: A species that lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.

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Footnote 5

A glossary of terms is provided in Appendix A.

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Footnote 6

This location originally supported two subpopulations but one of these subpopulations was lost to shoreline erosion. Now the nine remaining tress are located in the one remaining subpopulation.

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Footnote 7

Ramet: An individual produced through asexual means such as vegetatively. In the case of Cherry Birch, this would refer to suckers of a specific tree.

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Footnote 8

The area beneath a tree defined by the outermost circumference of the tree's canopy where water drips from the tree's foliage onto the ground.

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Footnote 9

This is the maximum extent of critical habitat based on habitat boundaries that can be delineated from high resolution aerial photography (comparable to ELC, Community Series) and/or a 20m radial distance around a Cherry Birch individual. Actual critical habitat occurs only in those areas described in section 5.1 and therefore could be less than this and would require field verification.

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