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Recovery Strategy for the Silver Hair Moss (Fabronia pusilla) in Canada


Recovery feasibility

Recovery is defined by Environment Canada et al. (2005) as “the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened or extirpated species is arrested or reversed, and threats removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.” For the silver hair moss, the feasibility of recovery may depend on ensuring the survival of the existing population, if found, and the elimination of threats.

As with many other rare plant species, we lack adequate information about the historical distribution of the silver hair moss. There is no evidence to indicate that this species was ever abundant or widespread in British Columbia; therefore, recovery should focus on improving its probability of persistence in the wild, if it is extant. Successful recovery will depend on a combination of research investigations, habitat protection and management activities, and long-term population monitoring. Because the original population has not been rediscovered, there is minimal information about the habitat and ecology of this species in Canada, and thus, current population viability cannot be estimated. Therefore, overall recovery feasibility is unknown until the species is rediscovered through inventory (see Table 3). This determination should be reassessed as the results of additional inventories become known.


Table 2. Technical and biological feasibility for recovery of the silver hair moss; criteria from Environment Canada et al. (2005)
Feasibility criteriaAnswer
1. Are individuals capable of reproduction currently available to improve the population growth rate or population abundance?Unknown
2. Is sufficient suitable habitat available to support the species or could it be made available through habitat management or restoration?Yes
3. Can significant threats to the species or its habitat be avoided or mitigated through recovery actions?Yes
4. Do the necessary recovery techniques exist and are they demonstrated to be effective?Yes


Recovery goal

To confirm the presence of silver hair moss, and to protectFootnote 1 and maintain any extant populations.

Recovery objectives

  1. To investigate the previously known site and relocate the population of the silver hair moss.
  2. To implement habitat protection and threat mitigation through stewardship activities and other mechanisms, for any extant populations.
  3. To conduct scientific studies on the ecology and habitat requirements of the populations, and on the threats to the populations if found or rediscovered.

Approaches recommended to meet recovery objectives

Information is lacking regarding the potential threats (urban development, recreational activities, and natural rock face degradation) and whether they do threaten any extant populations. If extant populations are found, an initial strategy would be research to identify real threats and possible mitigation measures. Anticipated general strategies to address urban development and recreation would include habitat protection, public education, and stewardship activities. The broad strategies to address the threats are provided in Table 2.

Recovery planning table

Table 3. Recovery planning table
PriorityObj. no.Broad approach/strategyThreat addressedSpecific stepsOutcomes or deliverables
HighIInventoryUrban development and recreational activities
  • Field survey of known and adjacent sites for species’ presence
  • Define and describe specific populations and habitats
  • Detailed location information of species
  • Population numbers
  • List of sites for protection and monitoring
Low (unless rediscovered, then higher)IIProtect extant populations and habitats; stewardship and public awarenessUrban development and recreational activities
  • Investigate extant protection in area, if any
  • Establish protection using legislative mechanisms
  • If rediscovered on municipal land, work with the municipality on the development/use of best management practices, conservation zone, and by-laws
  • Communicate with local authorities and property users about the presence of the species and the importance of protecting habitat
  • Securing of populations and habitats
  • Increased awareness and assistance by the public in the protection and recovery of this species
LowIIIStudy the ecology and habitat requirements of the populations, including the initiation of a monitoring programUrban development and recreational activities
  • Research and document population sizes and health
  • Develop and implement standardized monitoring protocol
  • Report monitoring results annually and assess trends in populations, area of occupancy, and habitat condition every 5 years
  • Submit all data to BC CDC
  • Data on population sizes, reproduction status, and health
  • Detailed data on habitat attributes
  • Regular and standardized monitoring of populations and habitats
  • Annual summary of monitoring results
  • Assessment of status of populations and effects of recovery actions


Description of the recovery planning table

Little is known about the biology and habitat of the silver hair moss in Canada and elsewhere, and re-inventory is necessary to confirm the presence of this species. Protection of populations and habitats, habitat and species research, monitoring program, and public awareness are only a priority for this species’ recovery if it is rediscovered (see Table 3).

Performance measures

Criteria for evaluating progress towards the goals and objectives of this strategy include:

  1. Confirmation of the presence of the species in Canada.
  2. If the species is rediscovered, the number of stewardship agreements and/or covenants in place on private lands, or other protective measures on Crown land.
  3. If the species is rediscovered, the number of research projects initiated on existing populations, habitats, understanding of and potential threats, determination of ecological and habitat requirements, and establishment of a monitoring program.
  4. If the species is rediscovered, the number of educational and stewardship activities conducted with landowners and land managers.

Critical habitat

Identification of the species’ critical habitat

No critical habitat as defined under the federal Species at Risk Act (Environment Canada 2004) is identified at this time. The critical habitat of the silver hair moss cannot be identified until the species is rediscovered. Based on herbarium data, on information provided by W.B. Schofield, and through field visits, the suitable habitat in Canada can be generally described as semi-shaded, sandstone rock faces or crevices, low elevation, probably summer dry environments.

Recommended schedule of studies to identify critical habitat

An accurate delineation of critical habitat for silver hair moss is not possible at this time. If the species is rediscovered, studies would need to be completed to identify critical habitat. Table 4 presents the studies to be undertaken (subject to availability of resources) to identify critical habitat for the silver hair moss. The results of these studies will be included in the action plan for the species.


Table 4. Timeline for completion of studies to identify critical habitat for the silver hair moss
StudyCompletion date
Determination of the existence of the silver hair moss at its previously known site in the Sumas Mountain area2010
Determination of rock mineral properties (e.g., pH, composition) to see if these are required for growth and reproduction2010
Determination of light and humidity requirements for growth and reproduction2010
Conduct a species-specific inventory/search of other areas of suitable habitat including other dry cliffs and possibly suitable Garry oak habitat in coastal British Columbia and in the Arrow Lake area2010


Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection

In COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) (2002), the Sumas Mountain site for the silver hair moss is listed as being under private ownership, but this is now unclear, as the area above the cliffs, and possibly the cliffs as well, may be owned by the City of Abbotsford. Regardless of ownership, the cliffs themselves are unlikely to be developed due to the steepness of the terrain.

If the population of this moss is rediscovered, it may be protected through stewardship and various legislative tools.

Stewardship approach

For successful implementation in protecting species at risk, there will be a strong need to engage in stewardship on various land tenures. Stewardship involves the voluntary cooperation of landowners to protect species at risk and the ecosystems they rely on. The preamble to the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) recognizes 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.” The Bilateral Agreement on Species at Risk between British Columbia and Canada recognizes 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.”

Stewardship approach for private lands

Additional populations of this species may occur on private lands. As with other species at risk found on private property, stewardship efforts would be the key to their conservation and recovery. To successfully protect many species at risk in British Columbia, voluntary initiatives by landowners will be needed to help maintain areas of natural ecosystems that support these species. This stewardship approach will cover many different kinds of activities, such as: following guidelines or best management practices to support species at risk; voluntarily protecting important areas of habitat on private property; creating conservation covenants on property titles; ecogifting property (in whole or in part) to protect certain ecosystems or species at risk; or selling property for conservation. Both government and non-governmental organizations have had good success in conserving lands in the province.

Effects on other species

Impacts to other species or ecological processes are not anticipated during the recovery process of the silver hair moss. It is expected that some actions during recovery may benefit other species, and this will be assessed as work is undertaken. If actions such as protective measures are undertaken at this site, additional listed species should be identified and their locations documented for inclusion in management plans.

Socio-economic considerations

At this moment, there are no social or economic considerations as this species has not been rediscovered in Canada. If the species is relocated, the socio-economic effects will be minor.

Recommended approach for recovery implementation

This recovery strategy takes a single-species approach. If the species is rediscovered, its recovery implementation may be considered for integration within conservation efforts in the region.

Statement on action plans

The recovery action plan will be completed by December 31, 2010, if the species is rediscovered.


Footnote 1

Protection can be achieved through various mechanisms including: voluntary stewardship agreements; conservation covenants; sale by willing vendors on private lands; land use designations on Crown lands; and legal protection on federal, provincial, and local government lands.

Return to footnote 1