Garry oak and associated ecosystems are home to more plant species than any other land-based ecosystem in coastal British Columbia. Many of these species occur nowhere else in Canada. At this time, because so much habitat has been lost or degraded, approximately 100 species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds, butterflies and other insects are officially listed as “at risk” in these ecosystems. Several species have already been eliminated in British Columbia, including fragrant popcornflower (Plagiobothrys figuratus), the Georgia Depression population of the western bluebird (Sialia mexicana), and the island large marble butterfly (Euchloe ausonides insulanus). Collectively, Garry oak and associated ecosystems are among the most endangered in Canada — less than 5% of the original habitat remains in a near-natural condition. It is important to retain the components of these ecosystems as much as possible in order to preserve their integrity and biological diversity.
A plant or animal is said to be “at risk” when it is deemed to be in danger of disappearing from the wild. In Canada, assessments are made at both federal and provincial government levels. These assessments are based on biological factors and use rigorous assessment criteria, followed by classification into categories based on level of risk.
A designation of “at risk” identifies species that require immediate help from land managers, such as protection of habitat essential to the survival of the species. These designations may also initiate recovery planning focused on the needs of the particular species at risk.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines the national status of wild Canadian species, subspecies and separate populations suspected of being at risk. COSEWIC bases its decisions on the best up-to-date scientific information available. All native mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, molluscs, lepidopterans (butterflies and moths), vascular plants, mosses and lichens are included in its current mandate.
Three lists are maintained:
Once a species has been designated “at risk” by COSEWIC, it is considered for addition to the federal List of Wildlife Species at Risk (Schedule 1). Once a species has been listed, a recovery planning or management plan must be prepared within a designated period of time.
Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (Schedule 1) and their residences have:
At the provincial level, specialists at the BC Conservation Data Centre, in cooperation with scientists and experts throughout the province, have identified British Columbia’s most vulnerable vertebrate animals, vascular plants and natural plant communities. Invertebrate animals, mosses and lichens are currently being identified. Each of these rare and endangered species and plant communities is assigned a global and provincial conservation status rank according to an objective set of criteria established by The Nature Conservancy (U.S.). They are also placed on provincial red and blue lists, according to the degree of rarity.
If you live within the range of Garry oak ecosystems, there is a chance that there may be rare or endangered plants or animals on your property. These species are often very difficult to identify. There are experts who can help you identify these species before you undertake any restoration or development of your land. Please contact us if you would like more information.
Review the answers (PDF 174KB) to these questions.
A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to stop or reverse the decline of an endangered, threatened or extirpated species. It sets goals and objectives and outlines activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the subsequent action plan stage.
Although recovery planning in Canada has historically taken a species-by-species approach, national initiatives have recognized the importance of incorporating a wider scope in recovery planning than single species recovery. The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) permits ecosystem-level planning for recovery of species at risk under appropriate circumstances.
Soon after its inception, GOERT prepared an ecosystem-level strategy titled Recovery Strategy for Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems and their Associated Species at Risk in Canada 2001–2006 (PDF 516KB). While this strategy addresses recovery of the full diversity of Garry oak and associated ecosystems along with the essential ecosystem characteristics that sustain them, it also addresses the needs of individual species.
GOERT has prepared strategies for the recovery of species at risk within Garry oak woodlands, maritime meadows and vernal pools. They can be viewed at the Species at Risk Act Public Registry website:
We are now in the process of writing Action Plans for multi-species at risk in Garry oak woodlands, maritime meadows, and vernal pools.
As we undertake more recovery planning for Garry oak ecosystems species at risk in the future, information will be posted here to keep you informed.
For more information and an overview of the recovery planning process, please see the Recovery Strategies Backgrounder (PDF 444KB).
Download the list of species at risk in Garry oak ecosystems (Excel 66KB).