© Chris Penner, Calamagrostis sp.
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. Wild Species 2005 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 2000. 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. This report increased the number of species assessed to almost 8000, including all of Canada's vertebrate species, all of Canada's vascular plants, and four important groups of invertebrates. Still, this represents only about 10% 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 insects and other invertebrates, non-vascular plants and algae, fungi and lichens, 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 less well-known groups will be enormous, and the results will be helpful to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in prioritizing species for detailed status assessments. In particular, the National General Status Working Group is planning on assessing the mosses, lichens, grasshoppers and crickets, and some families of moths for the next Wild Species report.
Address gaps in coverage for those species groups already assessed. 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.
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.
First report under the Species At Risk Act. Under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA), proclaimed in June 2003, 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 first of these reports is due in 2008, and Wild Species 2005 will be a major source of information for this report. For more information, please visit the SARA public registry website.
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 I.
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.