February 26, 2007

Majority of Alberta's wild species deemed "secure" by new, expanded status report

A new provincial report on the status of more than 2,800 of Alberta's wild species has classified nearly 90% of the species assessed as either "secure" or not in any risk category. The General Status of Alberta Wild Species 2005 report contains information on more than triple the number of species assessed for the 2000 report.

The 2005 report contains status assessments for 2,811 species, including birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish and butterflies, plus four groups never before assessed: vascular plants (plants with a dedicated transport system for water/nutrients, e.g. wild roses), bivalves (e.g. clams), gastropods (e.g. snails) and odonates (e.g. dragonflies).

Plants comprise the largest species group studied (1,868 species), followed by birds (411 species), butterflies (163 species), gastropods (97 species), mammals (93 species), odonates (72 species), fish (61 species), bivalves (28 species), amphibians (10 species) and reptiles (eight species).

Summary results indicate that where status could be determined, over half-56%--of Alberta's wild species are "secure" throughout the province. Fewer than 11% of provincial wild species are in risk categories: about one per cent were classified as "at risk," with 10% deemed "may be at risk" (a significant number within this group being rare plants).

Twenty-four species were considered "at risk," among them the piping plover, swift fox and five fish species. Of the 298 species considered as "may be at risk" 273 were rare plants, with other species in this category including prairie rattlesnake, the Canadian toad and the short-eared owl. The remaining species assessed were in categories ranging from "undetermined" to "accidental/vagrant" or "sensitive," and are of no immediate conservation concern.

The province updates the general status report every five years. Each status report aims to incorporate new data, address gaps in coverage for species previously assessed, and increase the number and variety of species assessed.

This work provides valuable direction for provincial wildlife biologists concerning which species require additional information or action. They can then set action plans for protecting and conserving species at risk. Research for the report is conducted through co-operation between provincial staff, conservation groups, academic researchers, scientific classification experts and naturalists.

This type of conservation project also contributes to maintaining biological diversity and supporting the development of a biodiversity strategy for Alberta. This initiative is being led by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

The 2005 report is Alberta's third produced as part of its commitment to the national Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. The Accord requires Canadian provinces and territories to produce a wild species status report every five years. The information from these reports is incorporated into an overview by the federal government, "Wild Species: The General Status of Species in Canada."

Alberta's first report, in 1996, assessed 482 species in four species groups: amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. The second report in 2000 assessed 812 species within eight species groups: amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, fish, lepidopterans (e.g. butterflies and moths), ferns and orchids. The total number of species has more than tripled in the latest report, with species groups increasing to ten.

The General Status of Alberta Wild Species 2005 report may be viewed on the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Web site, www.srd.gov.ab.ca/fw/wildspecies.

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