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Recovery Strategy for Multi-Species at Risk in Maritime Meadows associated with Garry Oak Ecosystems in Canada (Proposed)


Executive Summary

The national recovery strategy for maritime meadow species at risk addresses the recovery of two extirpated butterfly and seven endangered or threatened plant species: island marble (Euchloe ausonides insulanus), Taylor's checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori), bearded owl-clover (Triphysaria versicolor spp. versicolor), bear's-foot sanicle (Sanicula arctopoides), coastal Scouler's catchfly (Silene scouleri ssp. grandis), golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), prairie lupine (Lupinus lepidus var. lepidus), purple sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida) and seaside birds-foot lotus (Lotus formosissimus). The maritime meadow recovery strategy is designed to fit under the umbrella recovery strategy for Garry oak and associated ecosystems drafted by the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT 2002).

In Canada, these species occur (or occurred) primarily in Garry oak and associated ecosystems and are largely restricted to low elevation, marine-influenced habitats. Although the range of all species extends into the United States, many of the species are widely disjunct from the US populations. Mild winters with frequent coastal fogs and cool, dry summers characterize maritime meadow ecosystems. These ecosystems are naturally fragmented, occurring along shorelines and small islands. However, urbanization has intensified the natural fragmentation and remnant habitats and species at risk face a diverse array of threats.

Stewardship Approach

For successful implementation in protecting species at risk there will be a strong need to engage in stewardship on a variety of land tenures, and in particular on private land and on Indian Reserves. Stewardship involves the voluntary cooperation of landowners to protect Species at Risk and the ecosystems they rely on. It is recognized in the Preamble to the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) that "stewardship activities contributing to the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat should be supported" and that "all Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife in this country, including the prevention of wildlife species from becoming extirpated or extinct." It is recognized in the Bilateral Agreement on Species at Risk, between British Columbia and Canada that:

"Stewardship by land and water owners and users is fundamental to preventing species from becoming at risk and in protecting and recovering species that are at risk" and that "Cooperative, voluntary measures are the first approach to securing the protection and recovery of species at risk."

Threats

Maritime meadows are greatly diminished from their former abundance due to habitat destruction; some remaining patches continue to be threatened by urban development and high recreational demands are placed on remnant patches. Maritime meadow species at risk are threatened by the invasion of exotic shrubs, grasses and forbs. Habitat fragmentation limits the dispersal of seeds and pollinators, causes genetic isolation, and limits the availability of foodplants for butterflies. Historically these ecosystems were fire-maintained. Fire suppression has changed vegetation composition, density and structure, and altered nutrient cycling and increased fuel loading, thus limiting the possibility of re-introducing fire as a management tool. Demographic collapse, caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors may limit the persistence of species at risk. Other human activities including mowing, changes to hydrology, re-introduction of fire, maintenance activities, ecosystem restoration, pesticide and herbicide spraying and cultivation of non-native plants can negatively affect maritime meadow species at risk. Herbivory, livestock grazing, climate change, marine pollution and invasive invertebrates and vertebrates are also potential threats.

Recovery Goals and Objectives

The long-term goals for recovery for all of these species include maintaining existing populations and developing appropriate management strategies to mitigate the identified threats. For most species, translocations1 may also be required to ensure the long-term viability of the species and restore distributions to natural historic ranges. This could include augmenting existing populations, establishing populations at historic sites or introducing populations to new locations.

The following short-term objectives (5-10 year) for meeting the long-term goals are listed in decreasing order of priority for recovery, although importance may vary from species to species:

  1. Establish protection2 for existing populations through stewardship and other mechanisms.
  2. Engage the cooperation of landowners in habitat protection
  3. Identify life history, dispersal and habitat constraints and methods for mitigating them.
  4. Determine the causes of extirpation, and/or population decrease or loss.
  5. Develop and implement a habitat monitoring and restoration plan for locations with confirmed records or, in the case of extirpated species, for sites needed for  recovery.
  6. Identify and prioritize sites for inventories and conduct surveys to determine whether there are any undocumented populations.
  7. Identify potential habitat to establish new populations, as outlined in species-specific goals
  8. Develop priorities to establish new populations and one experimental population per species (if appropriate based on above research).

Strategic Approaches

The recovery actions and approaches developed in this recovery strategy address the above objectives and identify ways to mitigate threats. Recovery actions fall under seven strategic approaches, listed roughly in descending order of importance, although importance may vary from species to species:

  1. Habitat protection2
  2. Habitat stewardship
  3. Research
  4. Mapping and inventory
  5. Habitat restoration
  6. Public education and outreach
  7. Experimental population trials

This work builds on the ongoing recovery efforts undertaken by a range of agencies, organizations, and landowners.

Social and Economic Considerations

Recovery of species at risk and restoration of imperiled habitats associated with Garry oak ecosystems will contribute to biodiversity, health and functioning of the environment and enhance opportunities for appreciation of such special places and species thereby contributing to overall social value in southwestern British Columbia. The natural beauty of Garry oak ecosystems in the lower mainland, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island are an important resource for British Columbians that provide for a robust tourism and recreation industry. Protecting these natural spaces, biodiversity and recreation values has enormous value to the local economy.

Recovery actions could potentially affect the following socioeconomic sectors: recreation; private land development; operations and maintenance activities. The expected magnitude of these effects is expected to be low in almost all cases.

Knowledge Gaps

Research is required to address specific knowledge gaps. The following knowledge gaps are listed in descending order of priority for recovery, although importance may vary from species to species:

  1. Effects of invasive species and the response of invasive species, species at risk and habitat to management
  2. Detailed characteristics and delineation of suitable habitat
  3. Species-specific demographic and dispersal information
  4. Accurate species distributions and total numbers of populations
  5. Trophic and other ecological interactions
  6. Ex situ germination/propagation methodologies for plants and captive breeding/rearing techniques for butterflies
  7. Genetic studies

Further studies will help refine restoration targets and recovery actions.


1 Translocation is defined here as "deliberate moving of plant or butterfly propagules from one location to another in order to help conserve the species."

2 This may involve protection in any form including stewardship agreements and conservation covenants on private lands, land use designations on crown lands, and protection in federal, provincial and local government protected areas.