Next steps and strategic orientations
The vision of the Wild Species series is of a single platform for wild species assessment and monitoring: a tool that allows a wide variety of species from all regions of Canada to be ranked under the same system. This allows everyone from the resource manager to the high school student the ability to place a species in a geographic, taxonomic, and ecological context, and to gain an impression of the species' general status in that context. The report Wild Species 2010 has contributed to this goal by increasing the number and variety of species assessed by the general status program, and by providing updated ranks for species first assessed in previous reports. However, the Wild Species series is a product of an ongoing, national program and the next report will aim to include an even broader diversity of species. Priorities for the future of the Wild Species series include:
- Increase the number and variety of species assessed. The Wild Species 2010 report, by providing the results of the assessment of 11 950 species, is one of the most important in term of number of species studied. Still, this represents only about 17% of the species known to reside in Canada! The vast majority of species left to be assessed are insects and other invertebrates. To date, the general status program has focused on groups for which experts and information are fairly readily available. However, as the program delves deeper into lesser known taxonomic groups, information will be less readily available and the process of assessing Canada's wild species will become even more challenging. Nevertheless, the benefits of assessing these lesser known taxonomic groups will be enormous. In preparation of the next report, Wild Species 2015, the National General Status Working Group is planning to include other lesser known taxonomic groups that will be assessed for the first time.
- Continue to update general status assessments. Updating general status assessments has two benefits. Firstly, it allows the incorporation of new data and new data sources, to maintain the best possible estimate of species' status. Secondly, periodically updating general status assessments will allow Canadians to track patterns of improvement or decline in species' status through time. Such patterns not only give a better indication of the nature and magnitude of a problem, but also may point the way to improved conservation practices. In preparation of the next report, Wild Species 2015, the National General Status Working Group is planning to reassess the taxonomic groups that were already included in the previous Wild Species reports.
There are many potential ways on how the Wild Species reports could be used. We present here five strategic orientations that identify the potential uses of the report:
- Species at Risk Act. Under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), a general report on the status of wildlife in Canada must be prepared every five years and be made available to the public on the SARA public registry. The Wild Species reports represent the main sources of information used to fulfill this engagement. The next SARA report will portray a summary of the results obtained in the Wild Species 2010 report.
- COSEWIC. The species that are ranked as May Be At Risk by the National General Status Working Group in the Wild Species reports can be used directly by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in prioritizing species for detailed status assessments. This category flags the species that need more attention because of possible conservation concerns.
- Strategy on exotic species. The species that are ranked as Exotic by the National General Status Working Group in the Wild Species reports could be used in a national strategy about exotic species. For example, in the Wild Species 2010 report, we flag that 24% of the vascular plants in Canada are Exotic species. Our report can thus be a good source to identify the taxonomic groups that have the greatest proportion of exotic species and can also be used to build a list of exotic species in Canada (for the taxonomic groups that were assessed).
- Lack of knowledge. In the Wild Species 2010 report, data were lacking for some species in some regions (Not Assessed), or the data were insufficient to allow a confident assessment of the species' general status to be made (Undetermined). It is hoped that the Wild Species series will continue to raise the profile of existing data gaps and stimulate people either to contribute data for these species, or to collect new data to address these shortfalls. In particular, it is hoped that the Wild Species series will stimulate more basic survey work on the distribution and abundance of Canadian species. The list of taxonomic groups indentified by the National General Status Working Group with a lack of knowledge can be used to flag the groups that need more research and funding efforts.
- Sustainable development strategy. The changes in species status over time and the proportion of species ranked as Secure could also probably serve as Canadian environmental sustainability indicators, more specifically for wildlife conservation.
The Wild Species series highlights both the wealth of knowledge we have about Canada's wild species, and the information gaps that need to be filled. In the future, the Wild Species series will continue to consolidate our knowledge of wild species by using information from experts, both amateurs and professionals, to create a baseline for comparison of the status of Canada's species. We hope that people will be encouraged by the release of these reports to contribute data on their own, or to become involved with general status assessments in their province or territory. If you want to help in the effort to collect information on Canada's species, see Appendix 1.
Human impacts upon natural systems can be complex, subtle, and ongoing and large scale, long-term programs, like the Wild Species series, are essential in understanding exactly what these impacts are. Future reports will continue to require long hours from experts across the country, but this effort is a small price to pay to help sustain Canada's majestic natural heritage.