ENVIRONMENT YUKON






 

Species at Risk

Number of species at risk in Yukon

Significance

 

Species at risk are naturally occurring plant and animal species that are in danger of extinction or extirpation. Extirpation means species that have disappeared from Yukon.

Loss of any species contributes to a loss of biodiversity—the variety of life that exists on our planet. Biodiversity loss is occurring at an increasing rate internationally. The United Nations recognized the international concern for loss of biodiversity by declaring a Decade on Biodiversity (2011-2020) to promote an overall vision of living in harmony with nature.

Major reasons why many species are at risk in Canada include:

  • competition from alien invasive species,
  • habitat loss,
  • a changing climate,
  • genetic and reproductive isolation,
  • environmental contamination,
  • overharvesting, and
  • disease.

Tracking the number of nationally assessed species at risk that occur in Yukon indicates where there might be species vulnerability. However, a national rating does not necessarily mean that there is local conservation concern for that species in Yukon. Yukon’s healthy ecosystems are a refuge to many species that are considered at risk nationally.

 

 

 

What is happening?

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses species at risk across Canada to rank them as:

  • Endangered: A species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
  • Threatened: A species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
  • Special Concern: A species with characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.
  • Extirpated: A species that is extinct from an area where they used to exist.
  • Extinct: A species that no longer exists.

As of 2016, COSEWIC has identified 746 species or populations at risk in Canada, of which 39 occur in Yukon. This does not include two species of whales, which occur in the waters off the Yukon coast. The number of species at risk in Yukon has increased over time (Figure 1), and is expected to continue to increase as more species are assessed. For three fish populations, considered Data Deficient, not enough information is available to assess their status. Twenty-nine additional Yukon species have been assessed as Not At Risk.

 

Figure 1: Number of COSEWIC assessed species in Yukon, 2005-2016

 

  • Yukon Draba (plant) and the Squanga Whitefish are endemic to Yukon—they are not found anywhere else on earth.
  • Yukon is home to most of the world’s population of Collared Pika (50 per cent of its total range) and Yukon Podistera (90 per cent of its total range). Both were assessed as special concern based on the potential effects of climate change on their alpine populations.
  • For a comparison of species at risk between jurisdictions, see Environment Canada’s indicator.

 

(1) Yukon podistera. Syd Cannings, CWS. (2) Yukon draba. Martin Owen, YG.

 

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Taking action

 

 

  • The Yukon Conservation Data Centre collects and shares information on at risk plants, animals, lichens and ecological communities in Yukon, including those that have not been formally assessed.
  • The Yukon government contributes to national species at risk recovery plans in partnership with other governments and groups in the territory. Yukon government technical experts are on recovery planning teams organized by Environment Canada to share knowledge of the local situation.

Conservation status of Yukon biodiversity 2016

Determining which species and ecosystems are thriving and which are rare or declining is crucial for targeting conservation towards elements of biodiversity in greatest need. The Yukon Conservation Data Centre as part of the NatureServe network uses a suite of factors to assess the conservation status of plant, animal, and fungal species, as well as ecosystems (ecological communities and systems). The outcome of researching and recording information on the conservation status factors is the assignment of a conservation status rank with supporting documentation. For species, these ranks provide an estimate of extinction risk, and for ecosystems, they provide an estimate of the risk of elimination. Eight core status rank factors are used to develop the ranks including: range extent, area of occupancy, population size, trends (in distribution and population), vulnerability, ecological integrity, and threats.

Conservation status ranks are based on a one to five scale, ranging from Critically Imperiled (S1), Imperiled (S2), Vulnerable (S3), Probably Secure (S4) to demonstrably Secure (S5). Additional ranks include Historical (SH) — known from only historical occurrences but still some hope of rediscovery; there is evidence that the species may be extinct or extirpated, but not enough to state this with certainty. Not Applicable (SNA) —a conservation status rank is not applicable because the species is not a suitable target for conservation activities. This includes accidental (e.g., Great Egret) or introduced species (e.g., Sweetclover). Unranked (SNR) — conservation status not yet assessed. Unrankable (SU) due to lack of information or due to substantially conflicting information about status or trends.

Figure 2: The number of taxa (species, subspecies, or varieties) for each group of plants, animals, and fungi that are known from Yukon in 2016 and their conservation rank (Yukon Conservation Data Centre).

 

 

Conservation Status Rank

COSEWIC assessed1

SARA listed2

Taxonomic Groups

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

SH

SNA

SNR

SU

Grand Total

 

Amphibians

1

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

4

2

1

Bees, Ants & Wasps

1

2

10

25

67

0

1

0

20

126

3

 

Beetles

3

3

3

195

115

0

16

184

298

817

1

 

Birds

28

13

50

75

51

0

21

0

12

250

33

8

Moss & Liverworts

17

71

118

108

46

32

51

43

185

671

0

 

Butterflies &  Moths

0

14

29

146

67

0

5

189

267

717

0

 

Caddisflies

0

0

1

15

18

0

0

105

12

151

0

 

Dragonflies

4

5

8

8

16

0

0

0

0

41

0

 

Fishes

2

4

9

9

6

0

7

2

5

44

6

1

Flies

0

2

5

127

36

0

4

1

105

280

1

 

Grasshoppers

0

0

4

5

5

0

0

1

2

17

0

 

Lichens

0

24

36

71

45

0

186

182

104

648

0

 

Mammals

4

6

14

15

24

0

7

3

10

83

15

10

Mayflies

0

0

0

6

1

0

0

1

21

29

0

 

Molluscs

0

1

7

11

5

0

16

0

43

83

0

 

Other Invertebrates

0

0

0

14

 

0

1

68

21

104

0

 

Spiders

0

1

0

127

18

0

2

9

206

363

0

 

Stoneflies

0

0

1

21

21

0

0

0

33

76

0

 

Vascular Plants

76

186

219

280

283

12

191

60

60

1367

8

1

Grand Total

136

333

515

1259

824

44

508

848

1404

5871

69

 

 

1 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) formally assess the status of a species or population in Canada.

2 Species At Risk Act (SARA) Federal legislation that offers protection to species deemed to be at risk.

 

Profile

How to Contribute

 

iNaturalist.ca.

 

Identifying species is an important way of connecting people with the environment. iNaturalist Canada is a free citizen science app that provides a platform where users can crowd source species identifications via photos, download electronic guides of animals and plants across the Yukon, and join events such as a BioBlitz, which is a biological treasure-hunt where participants search for species in a short time.


In 2016 the Yukon Conservation Data Centre (YTCDC) and the Biological Survey of Canada ran a BioBlitz in the Carmacks area. Over 60 participants attended including many experts on plants and insects from around Canada. iNaturalist Canada was used to make a free species guide as well as a Projects Page where participants could upload photographs and organisers could easily download the generated data.


A guide was also created in partnership with the YTCDC and Parks Canada for Ivvavik National Park, highlighting the incredible diversity of this remote area. This guide is advertised for tourists who visit the park, but is available for anyone to download.


iNaturalist Canada is a fantastic resource that will be continued to be utilized, with more guides and a BioBlitz planned for 2017.

 

 

Data quality

 

References

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). 2015. Wildlife Species Search [modified 2016 Jan 26; cited 2016 Mar 3]. Available from: http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm