General Status of Species
Protecting Newfoundland and Labrador’s wild species and biodiversity is everyone’s responsibility. As we continue to develop our resources, we impact our province’s natural environment; we are obligated to allow natural resources to renew themselves, and to ensure that we maintain suitable natural habitats for wild species for future generations to enjoy.
In order to sustain and protect Newfoundland and Labrador’s biological diversity and its more than 20,000 species, we must first determine which species exist here, and then begin monitoring their status. Monitoring plants and animals will tell us if populations are stable, increasing or decreasing; where they can be found; the type of habitat they require; and the status of that habitat.
The goals of the General Status evaluations are to:
- Newfoundland and Labrador’s formal commitment to monitoring wild species occurred in 1996 with the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk and its commitment to “monitor, assess and report regularly on the status of all wild species.” The Accord also highlights species that may be in trouble, lack vital information, or require additional management attention.
- Newfoundland and Labrador’s General Status of Wild Species Program was developed to fulfill this commitment as part of a federal/provincial General Status Working Group. Its objectives are to inventory and monitor all wild species within Canada through a consistent classification system, permitting easy comparison between jurisdictions, and aiding in co-management of populations that cross provincial and territorial borders.
- list all wild species within Newfoundland and Labrador;
- assess the status of all wild species;
- identify and categorize the level of threat to an individual species, population or its habitat;
- provide provincial and national species status assessment committees with lists of species that have been assessed, highlighting those that require further detailed and rigorous assessment;
- track and monitor the status of biological diversity in the province.
Every five years, the national working group establishes a list of additional new taxa to evaluate.
- The General Status review process started with species that are best known: mammals, freshwater fish, birds, amphibians, butterflies, ferns, fern allies and orchids.
- In the 2005, the General Status program reported on the freshwater mussels, dragonflies & damselflies, tiger beetles and remainder of the vascular plants, as well as re-evaluating taxa covered in the 2000 assessment. In addition to new taxa to be assessed by the national working group, the province will also evaluate other taxonomic groups where expertise is available.
Species are divided into native and non-native categories.
- Non-native species do not naturally occur in our province, but were introduced either through human intervention or by travelling here independently of humans. These non-native species have been here less than 50 years.
- Native species originated in our province, or travelled to Newfoundland or Labrador without human intervention, and have been here for more than 50 years.
- The General Status process focuses on native species; therefore, non-native species are assigned the ranks of Exotics/Alien or Accidental/Vagrant.
General Status Ranking Process
Assigning a General Status Rank to a species is a multi-step process:
- A national and provincial species or taxonomic priority list is developed.
- A species list is generated for the selected taxonomic group: provincial officials generate species lists for taxonomic groups being assessed by consulting experts, literature, and various natural history collections.
- A group of experts comes together to assess species, bringing their experience, knowledge and data to the process.
- Experts use a Criteria and Scores Table to rank each species based on seven indicators:
- Population Size or Abundance
- Number of Occurrences
- Geographic Distribution
- Trends in Population Size or Abundance
- Trends in Distribution
- Threats to Population
- Threats to Habitat
- Experts come to consensus and assign a rank.
- Ranks are rolled up into Provincial Ranks and reported to National General Status Working Group. Assessments are also added to the Provincial General Status Report. Those requiring further assessment are provided to SSAC or COSEWIC.
General Species Ranks
Extinct/Extirpated: Extinct species no longer exist on Earth. Extirpated native species are no longer present in Newfoundland or Labrador, but exists elsewhere.
At Risk: Native species determined to be at risk of expiration or extinction. COSEWIC uses the terms endangered or threatened to identify this rank.
May Be at Risk: Native species may be at risk of expiration or extinction and are therefore candidates for a detailed risk assessment and research priority.
Sensitive: Native species are not immediately at risk to expiration or extinction, but are sensitive to exploitation or habitat loss and may require special attention or protection to prevent them from becoming at risk.
Secure: Native species are not at risk or sensitive. This category includes species that show a decline in numbers but remain relatively abundant.
Undetermined: Species are known to occur in Newfoundland or Labrador, but information, knowledge, or data is insufficient to reliably evaluate their general status.
Not Assessed: Species are known to occur in Newfoundland or Labrador, but no assessment has been carried out.
Exotic/Alien: Species have been introduced as a result of human activity.
Accidental/Vagrant: Species occur infrequently and unpredictably outside their usual range.
Wild Species 2000 Report
The Wild Species 2000 Report was the first national report from the General Status program, documenting status assessments for ferns, orchids, butterflies, freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
The Wildlife Division performs separate general status assessments for Newfoundland and Labrador. Insular Newfoundland and continental Labrador differ significantly in their climate, geographic isolation, geology, topography, ecoregions, ecosystems, habitats, community assemblages, and the degree and type of human development.
Provincial status reports provide information for species management in each area of the province. Nationally, Newfoundland and Labrador’s species are assigned one single rank per species to ensure consistency in reporting on a national scale.
For more information on the General Status of Species Program, please contact us.