Species Profile

Athabasca Thrift

Scientific Name: Armeria maritima ssp. interior
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Saskatchewan
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2002
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Athabasca Thrift

Athabasca Thrift Photo 1



The Athabasca Thrift is a perennial herb. It has a branched woody stock and one to several radiating clusters of leaves growing at ground level (rosettes). Flowering stems may arise from each rosette, and the small flowers are found in a dense, almost round head. The plant grows in small clusters or as occasional individuals.


Distribution and Population

The Athabasca Thrift is found only in northwestern Saskatchewan, in Athabasca Sand Dunes Wilderness Provincial Park. It occurs in three large dune fields along the south shore of Lake Athabasca (known as the William River, Thomson Bay, and MacFarlane River dunes). Exact population numbers and trends for this subspecies are unknown, but there is no evidence to suggest that it has declined in recent years.



The habitat of the Athabasca Thrift is highly localized and fragile. It consists of gravel pavements within areas of active sand dunes. The gravel pavements are caused by wind action on a sandy gravel soil, and are variously known as gravel barrens, sandy-gravel barrens, or sandy till plains covered with gravel. They are uncommon and the vegetation on them is very sparse.



The Athabasca Thrift is one of the most uncommon of 10 plants that are known only from the Lake Athabasca sand dune region. Athabasca Thrift seedlings become established both on gravel pavements and on moist to wet dune slacks (hollows or depressions). Plants growing in dune slacks are young and vigorous; however, they are not able to grow up through sand and eventually become buried by moving dunes and die. Old plants are only found on the relatively stable gravel pavements. Further research on the biology of this unusual plant is needed. The Athabasca Thrift is limited by its small population size and restricted habitat.



The Athabasca Thrift is subjected to multiple potential threats. Tourism is increasing in the area, and the impact of camping by canoeists on its habitat is becoming more significant. Degradation of habitat by all-terrain vehicle traffic is a potential threat in the Uranium City area, despite a ban on use of these vehicles on the dunes. Mining exploration is permitted up to the edge of the park. Seeds have been collected from inside the park, a practice that is incompatible with the protection of the habitat. Overall, the pressures from mining, tourism, recreational use, and other commercial activities are increasing.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

There is no provincial legislation that provides the Athabasca Thrift with legal protection, but in 1992, the sand dune region on the south shore of Lake Athabasca was officially designated the Athabasca Sand Dunes Wilderness Provincial Park. The park has been zoned into three regions, with the greatest protection given to the William River dune field. All regions have restrictions on camping, use of open fires, collecting plants, use of all-terrain vehicles, and hiking on gravel pavements.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Athbasca Thrift (2002)

    Designated Threatened in April 1981. Status re-examined and downlisted to Special Concern in April 1999. Status re-examined and confirmed Special Concern in May 2002. Last assessment was based on an existing status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Athabasca Thrift (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for Multiple Species of the Athabasca Sand Dunes in Canada (2013)

    This management plan addresses a group of seven plants which are listed as species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), and which are found in the Athabasca Sand Dunes of northern Saskatchewan: Large-headed Woolly Yarrow, Athabasca Thrift, Mackenzie Hairgrass, Sand-dune Short-capsuled Willow, Felt-leaf Willow, Turnor’s Willow, and Floccose Tansy. The Athabasca Sand Dunes is a complex of active and stabilized dunes on the south shore of Lake Athabasca, in the 1925 km² Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park which is located in the northwest corner of Saskatchewan. These plants are endemic (i.e. found nowhere else) to the dune complex, with the exception of one reported location of Felt-leaf Willow in Nunavut, one reported location of Mackenzie Hairgrass in the Northwest Territories (both under review), and a few observations near to the dunes on the shores of Lake Athabasca.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.