Sources of information
Achieving the most accurate overall impression of a species' status requires compiling local information to generate regional and then a national picture of a species' general status. This makes assessing the general status of Canada's species a complicated and challenging task because there are many species and most are distributed across a vast area. Fortunately, there are many sources of information about Canada's species, some in published documents, but much in the accumulated knowledge and expertise of people. For example, amateur naturalists, museum specialists, government biologists, and holders of community knowledge or aboriginal traditional knowledge are often key to determining which species occur within a region and assessing their status. The provincial, territorial and federal wildlife departments in Canada collect and maintain this information.
In many provinces, some of this local knowledge is already maintained within the network of Conservation Data Centres (CDCs) and Natural Heritage Information Centres (NHICs) of NatureServe Canada. The member programs of NatureServe Canada have the responsibility to house biodiversity information for their respective jurisdiction, as well as actively collect and verify data on species and ecological communities. Through standardized methodology and data management systems, data is examined by experts, maintained and made available for analyses. Currently, the NatureServe Canada network consists of eight member programs in all provinces (the Atlantic Canada provinces are represented by one regional member program) and in one territory (Yukon). The network of NatureServe Canada belongs to the international network of NatureServe. The General Status process draws upon expertise and data held within NatureServe Canada's network of Conservation Data Centres and Natural Heritage Information Centres for status information of many taxonomic groups.
Involving a great variety of people with knowledge to share about species ensures that the best and most comprehensive picture of a species' general status is achieved. An added benefit is that the extensive consultation required to collect data for species' general status assessments fosters a connection of expertise that is an enduring resource for wildlife management and conservation within each province or territory. This accumulated knowledge results in lists of species in a given region and, in most cases, sufficient information for the province or territory to establish a general status rank for each species. In addition, information gaps identified during the assessment process indicate where investment may be necessary to develop expertise in particular species groups, where additional surveys and research needs to take place, and highlight the need to capture the knowledge currently held by today's experts in a lasting form.