Instructions for the Preparation of COSEWIC Status Reports
Updated in January 2009
TABLE OF CONTENTS
COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) bases its status assessments primarily on status reports. A status report is a comprehensive technical report that compiles and analyzes the best available information on a wildlife species’ status in Canada and indicates the threats to that wildlife species1. The status report must meet minimum standards of quality and completeness as outlined in this document. Status reports are written by knowledgeable people (hereafter referred to as “report writers”) who have either been awarded contracts through the COSEWIC “Call for Bids” process, or are submitting unsolicited status reports. Calls for Bids are periodically posted on the COSEWIC website (www.cosewic.gc.ca). Please consult the website (click on Stay Informed) for information on upcoming Call for Bids and/or register on the website in order to receive notification when Call for Bids are posted.
A report writer will procure the best available scientific, community, and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge2 (ATK) when writing status reports for COSEWIC. Accurate evaluation, detailed analysis, and complete and up-to-date coverage of the relevant information are important. Among the most important types of information used are the sizes and trends in populations, distributions (e.g. extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of locations, etc.), habitat quality, and threats. It is equally important to identify gaps in knowledge and uncertainty associated with data or inferences.
While the primary purpose of a status report is to provide sufficient information to make a status assessment of a wildlife species, it also plays a role in subsequent processes, such as recovery planning.
There are several stages in the preparation of a COSEWIC status report and the average time to completion is approximately two years.
1. “Draft Report". This is the report that is received by the Species Specialist Subcommittee (SSC) Co-chair from the report writer for the first time. The report is reviewed by the SSC, jurisdictions that have a responsibility for that wildlife species (“range jurisdictions”) and by external experts at the discretion of the SSC Co-chair. Comments and suggestions are sent to the SSC Co-chair and forwarded to the writer with instructions from the Co-Chair for changes that must be incorporated into the report.
2. “Provisional Report”. Once changes have been made, the involvement of the report writer is concluded (although in certain circumstances, the writer may be re-engaged in a later stage – see paragraph below). The SSC and COSEWIC assume responsibility for further revision and completion of the report such that it will fully inform the wildlife species’ status assessment.
3. “Interim Report”. The SSC uses the Provisional Report to produce an Interim Report, which is sent to range jurisdictions six months before a COSEWIC Wildlife Species Assessment Meeting (SAM), and to all members of COSEWIC two months before the SAM. The SSC may add additional information / analysis to the provisional report, or make changes as deemed necessary during this process. The SSC also adds a recommendation of status to COSEWIC. The SSC may engage the original report writer or another person to assist in this process. The Interim Report is the basis for COSEWIC’s assessment of status of the wildlife species.
4. “Final Report”. SSC Co-chair finalizes the status report, incorporating any changes requested by COSEWIC during the SAM. COSEWIC’s assessment is appended, and the report is then translated and published on the SARA public registry (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca) as a “COSEWIC assessment and status report”.
Unsolicited reports are reports that have not been commissioned by COSEWIC through a Call for Bids. They may be received by COSEWIC from any credible source, including but not limited to provincial, territorial or federal agencies. Unsolicited status reports must be accompanied with a completed Application for Wildlife Species Assessment (available at http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/pdf/Appendix-F9_Eng.pdf) which includes a request for assessment, a permission to publish, a waiver of moral rights (see next section), a declaration of conflict of interest, and a justification for the assessment of the wildlife species. The full completed application and unsolicited status report is submitted to the Secretariat, which in turn forwards it to the appropriate SSC Co-chair. The report is then subjected to the same review process (see Section 5.3.2) as for a commissioned status report. The report writer is expected to make editorial changes, add available information, and/or delete inapplicable sections of the report as specified by the relevant Co-chair. Failure to comply with such requests may result in a report being returned unreceived by COSEWIC.
Unsolicited status reports can be formally received for consideration by COSEWIC only at a COSEWIC Assessment Meeting. Writers of unsolicited status reports are informed whether the report was accepted or rejected by COSEWIC, and in the case of the former, the status designation that was assigned the wildlife species and the reasons. If the report is rejected, COSEWIC provides the report writer with the reason(s).
In cases where a report concerns a wildlife species in a taxon for which there is currently no SSC (e.g. priapulids, dinoflagellates, or echinoderms), an ad hoc Species Specialist Subcommittee may be struck by the Chair of COSEWIC for the purposes of the designation process.
For all reports commissioned by COSEWIC and contracted by Environment Canada, IP will be retained by the Government of Canada, (“the Crown”) so that the reports can be published on the public registry. The goal of Crown ownership is not, however, to prevent contractors from publishing their information in other fora. As of December 2003, contracts for status reports will include a license from the Crown to use, reproduce or publish portions of the provisional report, provided that 1) the report is not published in its entirety, and 2) The contractor acknowledges that the Crown has contributed Crown Copyright to their work and includes the following notice and disclaimer in any new document which incorporates portions of the status report: “Notice: Some of the information used or referenced in this document is Crown Copyright, compiled on behalf of COSEWIC under a contract with Environment Canada, however, comments or conclusions made by the author using this information do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Environment Canada or COSEWIC.” Note that publications that are clearly and substantially different from the status report do not require a license from the Crown. Note also that any IP belonging to the report writer or anyone else before the status report is undertaken would still belong to the original holder. Permission to use such information must be secured.
For unsolicited reports, the report writer provides permission to publish, and a waiver of moral rights in the report, as described in the Application for Wildlife Species Assessment (available at http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/pdf/Appendix-F9_Eng.pdf). The IP for the final COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report will be held by the Government of Canada.
For all reports (commissioned and unsolicited) the report writer and any other contributors (i.e., co-writers) must be willing to provide a waiver of moral rights (MR) in the report available from the COSEWIC Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org. One reason for this stems from the fact that reports are subject to review, updating and additions as new information becomes available. On rare occasions, a status report may require revisions that are not sanctioned by the report writer preparing the document as recommended by the responsible SSC or by COSEWIC. A second reason for the waiver stems from the decision by COSEWIC in May 2001 that status reports will be living documents that will be updated to reflect the changing status of a wildlife species over time. A waiver of MR will allow subsequent report updates directly, without anyone being guilty of plagiarism. This will eliminate the need for the preparation of a whole new document.
COSEWIC will be cited as “author” for reports commissioned (or initiated) after May 2001. The report writer(s) will be acknowledged in the final status reports posted on the SARA public registry, and the roles of other contributors will be recognized. Report writers may, however, opt out of acknowledgement of their role in the status report if they wish. In the case of updated status reports, all report writers involved in the preparation of the original status report on the wildlife species and any previous updated reports will also be acknowledged.
Property Rights in ATK
ATK is the property of those who hold it. Contractors will require permission for gathering ATK using appropriate consent forms to be provided. Knowledge holders will be provided with an opportunity to review and validate the factual information shared with the report writer, before it is incorporated into the status report. Raw information (e.g, transcripts, tapes, etc.) will be returned to the knowledge holder or the community for storage. The report writer shall not have any intellectual property rights in the knowledge provided from Aboriginal sources.
Required Contacts and Other Sources of Information
In addition to conducting a thorough review of the relevant scientific literature, report writers must contact the jurisdictions (federal, provincial and territorial) where the wildlife species is found or from where it has been extirpated to ensure that the report contains the best and most current information from all possible sources. If the wildlife species occurs within the jurisdiction of Wildlife Management Boards (WMBs), the appropriate WMB(s) must also be contacted. All report writers must contact the COSEWIC Secretariat for more information and instruction on incorporating Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge in reports and on the preparation of distribution maps and the calculations of extent of occurrence and area of occupancy. Report writers must also contact relevant Conservation Data Centres or Natural Heritage Information Centres, and the Chair of the recovery team for the wildlife species, if one exists. Contact information for all agencies mentioned above is provided in Required Contacts for Information on Wildlife Species for report writers, available on the COSEWIC web site. Report writers are encouraged to include information from other credible sources, including personal communications with knowledgeable local people and other experts. The report writer’s own professional inferences are welcome. For updates on status reports, former report writers who may have new information on the wildlife species should be contacted and cited. Every effort should be made to substantiate these sources or provide corroborating information from multiple sources.
Including ATK in Wildlife Species Assessments
It will be the responsibility of status report writers to include ATK in status reports on those wildlife species for which ATK is available. This will be facilitated through the ATK Subcommittee that will direct report writers to appropriate contacts. It could also include sources of ATK that have been investigated by the report writer provided that the supporting information for the source was reviewed by the ATK Subcommittee. ATK will be included when it becomes available, at any identified stage of report preparation.
Report writers must contact the COSEWIC Secretariat ATK coordinator (see Required Contacts for Information on Wildlife Species on the COSEWIC web site) to advise that they are preparing a new or updated wildlife species status report. Report writers will provide the Secretariat with a preliminary map of the wildlife species Canadian distribution that will be used by the ATK Subcommittee to assess relevant Aboriginal contacts.
Under the guidance of the ATK SC and assisted by the COSEWIC Secretariat, information from Aboriginal sources, if available, should include:
Do not include specific information on Aboriginal cultural, medicinal or spiritual use of a wildlife species. It is appropriate, however, to identify that a wildlife species is used by an Aboriginal group.
Provide a list to the ATK Subcommittee of the names of all the people who were contacted for the purpose of accessing ATK.
Please use the inclusive term Aboriginal Peoples or, specify source as Inuit, Indian or Métis.
Once approved by COSEWIC, the final status report will become a public document. Report writers should ensure that any detailed information that might further imperil a wildlife species does not appear in the status report. Confidential information, such as exact locality, ownership of private lands where a wildlife species occurs, etc., is not necessary for status designation and, if included in reports, may encourage interference with populations that are already at risk. Such information must be submitted to the SSC Co-chair in a separate appendix, and it must not be explicitly referenced in the status report. The SSC Co-chair(s) will forward the sensitive information to the Secretariat for archiving. The Secretariat will provide the information to appropriate jurisdictions and upon request, to other scientific authorities with permission from the Chair of COSEWIC on the recommendation of the relevant Co-chair.
Updated Status Reports
Status reports are updated every 10 years, or sooner, if necessary. The new procedure adopted by COSEWIC in 2001 for updated reports is to directly add to or modify the most recent status report on the wildlife species. In this way, an updated report can be prepared simply, efficiently and more cost effectively than in the past. All status reports commissioned or initiated after May 2001 will become “living documents” containing a complete summary of the knowledge to date. Report writers should thus contact the COSEWIC Secretariat to determine to what extent a previous report can serve as the basis for the updated status report or whether a complete new report is required to serve as the basis for future updates. In either case, the updated status report should provide the same comprehensive summary of information about the wildlife species and its current status in Canada as a new report. Thus, the instructions and requirements in this manual apply equally to new and update status reports.
Status reports may be written in English or French. Use the Formatting Template provided on the COSEWIC web site. Inclusion of all headings and subheadings specified in the template is required (unless otherwise noted). This will ensure coverage of the crucial topics relevant to decision-making by COSEWIC. If information for some subheadings is deficient, this should be indicated under the appropriate heading. New subheadings may be added as necessary, depending on the taxon.
Status reports may vary in length depending on the amount of information available. They should contain a summary of all relevant information but not all details of all information. The report writer’s job is not to be exhaustive but rather to pick out the relevant available material and succinctly summarize and synthesize it for COSEWIC’s use. Report writers should strive to be brief but bullets and lists should be avoided.
Do not use the first person, as the “author” of the report will eventually be COSEWIC. For information on citing literature or personal communications, see the section Information Sources.
All tables and figures should be numbered and referred to in the text of the report. Ensure that figures photocopy well in black and white, especially when colour is used, and that legends and symbols can be interpreted correctly when read in black and white. More information on figures and tables appears in Detailed Instructions below.
Ensure that map scales use metric units. Include metric conversions in brackets when quoting a source that uses non-metric units. When reporting uncertainty quantitatively, specify what measure of variability is used (standard error, standard deviation, quartiles, etc).
Refer to the formatting template for guidance on the content and format of this page.
Each report should contain a table of contents that can be automatically updated.
The executive summary is intended for the layperson and will be used to post information on the SARA public registry (http://www.registrelep.gc.ca). Summarize in simple terms the relevant material contained in the body of the report; do not include information that is not presented in the body of the report. Avoid jargon and overly technical language. Do not make reference to figures in the report, and do not include literature citations. Be brief; the executive summary should not exceed two pages. Use these headings:
Wildlife Species Information (with emphasis on morphological description)
Population Sizes and Trends
Threats and Limiting Factors
Existing Protection, Status, and Ranks
Under the last heading, include any previous COSEWIC designations, SARA listing, provincial/territorial legal listing, NatureServe G-rank, Canada N-rank, and provincial/territorial S-ranks, IUCN global listing (Red list),and Canada and jurisdictional General Status of Wild Species ranks.
Name and Classification
Provide the most up-to-date accepted scientific name and authority, in agreement with the taxonomic standards used by the relevant SSC. Follow scientific writing format, including upper case for first letter of genus name, lower case for wildlife species and subspecies names, italics for all genus, wildlife species subspecies names, and no italics for any taxonomic names above genus (e.g. Family, Order, Class names, etc). If needed, consult the appropriate SSC Co-chair regarding specific information or references, especially on subspecies taxonomy. Provide information on classification, including subspecies and variety (if applicable). Other classification categories can be included if relevant. List the recognized subspecies (or varieties) that occur in Canada. Discuss any recent taxonomic or nomenclatural changes or taxonomic problems or uncertainties. Give synonyms for names, including scientific names, and common names in English, French or other languages relevant in a Canadian context (Inuktitut, Cree, etc.). If there is confusion over the correct usage of a name, very briefly review the history related to the application of the names. Briefly justify the recognition of an infra-specific taxon if controversial.
Provide an accurate, brief morphological description of the wildlife species (or designatable unit) using popular terms. If appropriate, include diagnostic features differentiating the wildlife species from similar or easily confused local wildlife species. References to good, easily accessible descriptions, illustrations or keys can be provided, if appropriate. For wildlife species with various life stages (e.g., larvae, pupae) or sexual dimorphism, describe stages and/or sexes using illustrations if necessary (but provide details on how they fit into the life cycle in the Biology section). For lichens, information on characteristic chemical components should be mentioned.
Provide at least one line drawing or clear photograph with good contrast (i.e., must photocopy well in black and white) of the wildlife species. This must serve as a figure in this section, and will also be used on the cover page of the final published document. The illustration may be submitted as a high resolution electronic file or a hard copy. If the illustration is taken from a published document or belongs to someone other than the report writer, it must be accompanied with a letter of permission from the author/owner of the illustration. If no suitable illustration is available, please advise the COSEWIC Secretariat so that one can be commissioned.
Provide information about population structuring for the wildlife species in Canada. Are there geographical, ecological, or behavioural barriers to movement that might create genetic structure or strong demographic isolation within the Canadian part of the wildlife species’ range or between Canadian populations and those outside of Canada?
All available information that would help to define population structure below the species level should be described. Such information could include genetic, tagging, parasite, ecological, morphometric and meristic data, as well as information about range disjunctions or barriers to population mixing. Studies pertaining to population structure should be described in enough detail that reliability can be assessed. In general, such detail would include some sense of the scope of the study in terms of numbers of individuals and number and geographic range of populations surveyed. For genetic studies, the types and numbers of genetic markers employed, and measures of genetic differentiation such as FST statistics or sequence divergence estimates should also be reported. Statements such as “populations are genetically distinct” should not be made or quoted without quantification and qualification (e.g., FST estimates and P values). Report writers are not expected to do additional statistical analyses beyond those presented in source publications. However, if estimates of genetic differentiation are provided without estimates of mean distances among populations, then report writers should calculate those distances.
Where relevant to a wildlife species’ status, summarize genetic measures of population variability (indices of heterozygosity (H) for diploid markers or haplotype diversity (h) for haploid markers such as mitochondrial or chloroplast DNA).
COSEWIC generally assesses the status of a wildlife species or subspecies throughout its Canadian range. Below the species level, status may be assigned in cases where a single designation is not sufficient to accurately portray the status of the wildlife species. The rationale for assessing a designatable unit separately must be clearly spelled out in this section.
The Guidelines for Recognizing Designatable Units Below the Species Level on the COSEWIC web site explain when a taxonomic unit may warrant more than one status designation. Note that “designatable unit” replaces what was formally “population of national significance”. In applying the guidelines, report writers should be aware that even though a wildlife species may be found in several biogeographic zones (i.e., see ecozone maps in the Guidelines referenced above), a population in any one of these zones may be treated separately only when population trends and factors affecting them differ significantly or when there are other biological differences between populations that reflect historical or genetic distinctions. Refer to information described in the Spatial Population Structure subsection as needed.
For status reports commissioned by COSEWIC, the treatment of designatable units will normally be specified in the terms of reference in the contract. If a report writer concludes that he/she is dealing with a designatable unit other than that specified in the contract, the report writer should discuss the situation with the SSC chair / Co-chair and come to an agreement.
In each subsequent section of the report, ensure that the required information (e.g. total population size, habitat, trends, threats) is provided for the wildlife species in Canada as a whole and for each designatable unit separately. If biological information differs between designatable units, identify the differences.
The use of standardized maps across all wildlife species groups is encouraged as it facilitates the interpretation during the assessment process. Small and large scale standardized base maps are available in a digital format compatible with a Geographic Information System (GIS) from the COSEWIC Secretariat. To discuss requirements and methods for preparing distribution maps and calculating the extent of occurrence and area of occupancy for individual wildlife species, report writers must contact the COSEWIC Secretariat (see Required Contacts for Information on Wildlife Species on the COSEWIC website). Help with the preparation of maps will be provided by the Secretariat as required. In addition, report writers must submit to the COSEWIC Secretariat the original data used for deriving the distribution map and calculating the extent of occurrence and area of occupancy, provided the data can be obtained with permission. Finally, report writers must submit a GIS-compatible version of the distribution map when produced in such format.
With respect to general formatting, avoid the use of colour shading when illustrating distribution patterns; use either a clearly discernible grey scale, cross hatching or different kinds of lines (e.g. diagonal, vertical, horizontal, dashed, dotted) to allow black and white reproductions. If colour is used, ensure that black and white reproductions show all information. A scale and a north arrow should be included for each map.
Review former and current distributions and prepare an up-to-date map indicating the global range of the wildlife species. Include any other maps that may be appropriate for distinguishing between breeding, wintering, migratory or other areas and routes, if applicable. When available, include information or a map showing the historic range of the wildlife species and identify recently extirpated populations.
Provide a brief review of the wildlife species' current Canadian distribution. Is the range of the wildlife species widespread, restricted? Across which biogeographic zones does the wildlife species occur? Address evidence for fragmentation and / or disjunctions. Indicate if the wildlife species is endemic to Canada or what proportion of the distribution is in Canada (i.e., 80% of the total distribution is in Canada). If the wildlife species is dependent on another wildlife species for survival, provide information on the Canadian distribution of the other wildlife species as well.
Provide an up-to-date map showing the current distribution of the wildlife species in Canada. If more than one designatable unit is shown on the map, clearly label each unit and overlay the DU’s on the ecozone map. Additionally, more detailed maps for the Canadian portion may be helpful, particularly in cases where multiple records are clustered in a small geographic area. Include any other maps that may be appropriate for distinguishing between breeding, wintering, migratory or other areas and routes, if applicable. Ensure that maps are not so detailed that exact locality information is discernible. In the text, localities of occurrence should only be identified in a generalized manner, using the distance from the nearest town or a geographic feature or by some other means.
Describe temporal changes of the distribution (expansions and contractions) of the wildlife species. Of particular interest are changes over the last three generations or 10 years (whichever is longer). Generation time is discussed further in the subsection Life Cycle and Reproduction.
On a map showing the current and historical distributions, specify whether the data refer to locations or populations (see discussion below on location vs. population). Clearly distinguish among new and historical survey data, and positive and negative data. Positive data is information on where the wildlife species is or was found and negative data is information on where the wildlife species was searched for but not found. In general, negative data are important because they demonstrate the extent of search effort and should be included whenever they are available. Where applicable, the last date the wildlife species was collected, observed and/or reported at any given location or in any population should be provided. Provide evidence for trends in the numbers of populations or locations.
Discuss any uncertainties associated with the above estimations. Identify potential range losses or expansions that have not been adequately surveyed. Indicate historical populations of unknown status, erroneous reports (misidentified specimens and localities) and potential sites for investigation. If pertinent, populations or specimens of plants of horticultural origin should be identified clearly and a distinction made between material cultivated from known native populations and horticultural stock of unknown origin. Similar information, on introduced populations of animal species should be provided where applicable.
Provide estimates (in km2) on extent of occurrence (EO) and area of occupancy (AO). Describe any trends or fluctuations in the sizes of the extent of occurrence and area of occupancy. See subsection on Important Terminology on Distribution and Extent of Occurrence and Area of Occupancy below for a discussion of the definition of these terms. In addition, it is important to note that a new definition and methodology for calculating area of occupancy is being implemented (information and instructions are available from the COSEWIC Secretariat). The writer must document how the area of occupancy was estimated (e.g. types of habitats that were excluded or included; what areas were considered essential to the survival of existing population), and what scale was used to measure the area of occupancy.
Do not discuss population sizes and trends here. This section should deal only with geographic ranges, extant and historic locations and populations, and changes in the numbers or extent of these quantities. Information relating to population sizes (numbers of individuals, etc) should go into the section Population Sizes and Trends.
When writing this section, it is important to understand the definitions used by COSEWIC for the total population, populations, and locations. The Glossary on the COSEWIC website (under Definitions and Abbreviations) defines these terms in detail, and should be consulted. The total population is the group of individuals comprising the taxon (i.e., the designatable unit) in Canada. A population is a geographically or otherwise distinct group (a portion of the total population) that has little demographic or genetic exchange with other such groups (populations) - typically one successful migrant individual or gamete per year or less. A location is a geographically distinct area in which a single threatening event can rapidly affect all individuals of the taxon present. The size of the location depends on the area covered by the threatening event and may include part of one or many populations. Where more than one threatening event is possible, location should be defined by considering the most serious plausible threat. Figure 1 illustrates the differences between populations and locations. This terminology should be used when describing temporal changes in the distribution of the wildlife species.
Figure 1: TP = Total population in Canada (ie, the designatable unit); P = Population; L = Location. For explanations of terms, see text. Note that populations and locations can form subsets of each other depending on the nature of the threats to the taxon.
The extent of occurrence is the area contained within the shortest continuous boundary drawn to encompass all the known, inferred or projected sites of present occurrence of a taxon, excluding cases of vagrancy. This measure may exclude large areas of obviously unsuitable habitat. The extent of occurrence can be measured by drawing the smallest polygon in which no internal angle exceeds 180 degrees and which contains all sites of occurrence (Figure 2).
The area of occupancy is defined as the area within its extent of occurrence that is occupied by a taxon, excluding cases of vagrancy. The measure reflects the fact that a taxon will not usually occur throughout the area of its extent of occurrence, which may contain unsuitable or unoccupied habitats. The size of the area of occupancy will be a function of the scale at which it is measured, and should be at a scale appropriate to relevant biological aspects of the taxon. For example, for lake- or stream-dwelling species, only the area of the portion of the aquatic system that is actually occupied is measured. If only the littoral zone of a lake is occupied, only the area of the littoral zone, not the total lake surface area, is measured. For a stream, only the area of the portion of the stream that is occupied is measured, not the entire watershed of the stream. See also Definitions and Abbreviations on the COSEWIC website for detailed definitions of these terms.
Figure 2. Estimating extent of occurrence. The method is correct in (a) and incorrect in (b). In (a) the outer most locations (stars) are connected with a line such that no internal angle exceeds 180o; the enclosed area is the extent of occurrence. In (b) the line drawn has several internal angles (arrows) that exceed 180o and the extent of occurrence would be underestimated.
Describe the general habitat requirements of the wildlife species. Describe as precisely as possible the typical and essential habitats of the wildlife species. If known, state if the wildlife species is a habitat generalist or specialist. Indicate the extent of fragmentation (patchiness) of potential habitat, whether or not the fragmentation is natural and the extent to which the patches are occupied by the wildlife species. If the wildlife species is dependent on another wildlife species for its survival, provide habitat requirements for the other wildlife species.
Provide, in a succinct form, as much information that is directly pertinent to the taxon as is available (Table 1). This may include such topics as: the stage(s) of ecological succession used by the wildlife species (if applicable, at different stages of its life cycle, e.g., for reproduction, during migration, for wintering); the level of habitat specialization of the wildlife species within any given life cycle stage; for presence of other wildlife species at risk designated by COSEWIC, or other rare wildlife species included in widely recognized lists used provincially and nationally; the wildlife species' tolerance to disturbance. Clearly indicate what part of the taxon’s range the habitat information comes from, particularly when this information is not from Canada. When describing community structure, do not include extensive lists of associated wildlife species.
Table 1. Check list for habitat characteristics to include5
If applicable, provide a map showing the present habitats and their past extent. Describe potential habitats that have not been surveyed or new habitats that have become available. Provide pertinent information on habitat availability and discuss net trends in habitat, if any (e.g., net gain or loss of area or quality), and projections into the future when appropriate. Describe known causes for these trends. When possible, calculate over the last three generations or ten years, whichever is longer, the rate of habitat change. Discuss any uncertainties associated with estimations of trends. For wildlife species whose distribution crosses an international boundary, summarize habitat trends in the foreign country. Note that estimating trends in habitat (or potential habitat) is different from estimating trends in the number of locations or populations of the actual wildlife species addressed in the subsection Canadian Range above.
Indicate how much habitat is legally protected and how much is likely to be secure in the future (e.g. through agreements with landowners, ownership by government or private conservation agencies). Discuss the adequacy of the present level of protection, and whether enough habitat is being protected to ensure long-term survival of the wildlife species. If known, indicate the federal lands on which the wildlife species occurs; federal lands include National Parks, National Wildlife Areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, Indian reservations, and all lands owned by a federal department (including Environment Canada, Parks Canada, Department of National Defense, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, etc.). For riverine species, consider habitat protection/ownership upstream of the wildlife species’ occurrence, especially if it impacts a wildlife species downstream.
Provide some preamble in a paragraph that provides context for the information being provided below. For example, if all the information is from one source, give the source here and describe its importance (e.g. a monograph, a comprehensive review, the only information available, etc.). If any information is from the report writer’s own research or experiences, briefly describe the research stating whether it is published (give references), in press, or in preparation.
Under the subheadings provided below, include only information about characteristics that make a wildlife species particularly susceptible or allow the reader to better assess the level of risk of the wildlife species. Avoid repetition of information under more than one subheading or that is presented elsewhere in the report. Other subheadings better suiting a particular wildlife species may be used under special circumstances with approval by the SSC Co-chair.
The organization of information under this subheading will differ greatly depending on whether the wildlife species is a plant, vertebrate, invertebrate, aquatic species, or terrestrial species (Table 2). It is in this section that report writers should try to estimate generation time, which is the average age of parents of the current cohort (i.e., newborn individuals in the population). This is greater than the age at sexual maturity or first breeding and less than the age of the oldest breeding individual, except in wildlife species where individuals breed only once. Where generation varies under threat (e.g. harvesting), the more natural (i.e., pre-disturbance), generation time should be used.
Table 2. Life cycle, population biology, and dispersal description check-list6
Herbivory / Predation (Use herbivory if a plant, predation if an animal)
If a plant, describe the main herbivores and their contribution to the decline of the wildlife species, if any. If an animal, describe the main predators for each life history stage and their contribution to the decline of the wildlife species, if any. Distinguish between natural mortality and unnatural mortality (e.g. herbivory/predation by an introduced wildlife species) with the latter being a potential significant “limiting factor“.
Describe the wildlife species’ main physiological requirements and tolerances. For aquatic organisms, describe any requirements or tolerances for physical characteristics (e.g. turbidity, water velocity, temperature, depth) and/or chemical characteristics (e.g. pH, alkalinity, calcium and total hardness, salinity/conductivity). Describe any special physiological adaptations that allow the wildlife species to survive periods of adverse conditions, such as spore formation in plants, hibernation, aestivation and thermoregulation in animals.
Dispersal and Migration
Discuss only dispersal mechanisms or patterns here with attributes relevant to the taxon (Table 2). Do not repeat anything stated previously in the "Distribution” section. Dispersal potential determines the range and numbers of populations that can be established by a wildlife species and is determined to some extent by the physiological and ecological tolerances and requirements of the wildlife species. The two basic types of dispersal mechanisms are passive and active dispersal. Passive dispersal is hitch -hiking a ride using abiotic (for example, water currents, wind, ships, boats, etc.) or biotic (for example, birds, insects, mammals) vectors. Most of the active dispersal mechanisms are natural and include the swimming, running, walking or flying abilities of the wildlife species. Many of the passive dispersal mechanisms are anthropogenic and can be intentional or non-intentional. Intentional introductions are typical for organisms valued as food (e.g. plants, fish, molluscs).
It is important to address the rescue effect, defined as the process by which a wildlife species may move through its range in a way that it mitigates a Canadian extirpation or population decline. If the potential for rescue is high, the risk of extirpation may be reduced. Thus, if the range of a wildlife species crosses over an international boundary of Canada, give the likelihood that dispersal from the foreign population will repopulate the Canadian population should the latter disappear or experience a decline.
It is also important to address severely fragmented (see Definitions and Abbreviations) within the Canadian extent of occurrence, and the extent to which dispersal can create links between isolated populations. High gamete mobility (e.g., air borne pollen in plants) should be considered in this context as well as dispersal of individuals, or propagules.
Discuss the reliance of the wildlife species on other wildlife species for its survival at any time during its life cycle (symbiotic, parasite/host, predator/prey relationships, specific food plant)? Describe any negative interactions with other plants, animals, pests, parasites and diseases or any toxic or allelopathic interactions with other organisms that may affect the life span or reproductive success of the wildlife species. Be sure to describe the importance of any of the interspecific interactions influencing the survival of individuals. Consideration should also be given to any obligate or facultative associations with other wildlife species (plants or animals, e.g. unionid bivalves need a fish or amphibian host for transforming glochidia into juveniles). If availability of a specific food is a limiting factor for the abundance of the wildlife species, give details on the importance of the food to reproduction, growth, biochemistry, etc. of the wildlife species.
Confine discussion to adaptations that have direct bearing on the wildlife species’ ability to survive. For example, describe any specializations that allow the wildlife species to adapt readily to change, and its susceptibility to stochastic events such as natural catastrophes (fires, fluctuating or abnormally high or low water levels, temperature extremes, severe weather conditions, extremes of rainfall or drought) or anthropogenic disasters (industrial activity or accidents, human exploitation).
For plants, describe any successes in artificial propagation, seed germination and growing the wildlife species horticulturally, as well as success in transplanting the wildlife species that has been bred in captivity or raised horticulturally. Discuss the feasibility of using cultivated individuals from horticultural sources for transplanting.
For aquatic species, describe any aquaculture successes in transplanting specimens that have been artificially reared and the feasibility of transplanting wild stock.
For terrestrial animals, focus on behavioural adaptations, such as social or reproductive behaviour, predator-avoidance behaviour, foraging behaviour, tameness, aggressiveness, curiosity, conditioning, response to acoustic or visual stimuli, etc. If the wildlife species is territorial, give the size of its territory and its home range and discuss any behaviours that may render it vulnerable to humans or other dangers. Describe any successes in breeding or raising the wildlife species in captivity and whether captive-reared individuals would likely survive if released in the wild.
If a wildlife species is divided into more than one unit (see Designatable Units), use subheadings to provide separate information for each unit that is being proposed for assessment. Do not repeat any of the information already reported in the “Distribution” section. Ensure that all information appearing in the Technical Summary concerning population sizes and trends is presented and substantiated here. Although bullets are used here, do not use bullets in the report.
Throughout this section, it is very important to document sampling effort, uncertainty, and how presence/absence/abundance data were collected.
Fluctuations and Trends
Writers must provide justification for any threats that are mentioned in the report and the imminence and degree of real or potential harm must be indicated and justified. Flexibility and common sense will have to be applied in terms of what constitutes justification and documentation, but more than speculation is needed. Several types of threats and their potential usefulness for status evaluation can be identified:
Threats that are imminent and can result in harm and population-scale impacts are of the highest importance for status evaluation; such threats must be suitably documented with concrete facts. Threats that are clearly imminent but the harm to the populations is uncertain should be reported but with uncertainties explained. For threats whose imminence is uncertain but harm is likely if they occur should not be listed as primary threats but could be included as additional considerations if a wildlife species faces other threats. Threats where the imminence and harm are both hypothetical but possible are of little value in documenting risk to a wildlife species or population and should not be listed. Similarly, threats with no clear relationship to the wildlife species' biology or impact on its habitat should not be included. Natural mortality itself should not be a threat, unless there are particular circumstances that have caused a recent change in, for example, predation rate.
Climatic change should only be used as a threat if there are experimental data or reliable models that indicate a particular sensitivity to climatic changes that have already been demonstrated for the wildlife species in question. Where habitat damage or removal is a threat it is important to specify if applications have been filed for activities that would cause the damage or removal. General statements such as “human population expansion in the near vicinity of sites will result in harm as the recreational use of lands increases”, are not suitable as indications of threat; if included, such statements must be supported by evidence of increased housing developments and of documentation of observed harm resulting from such activities as ATV use and damage to sensitive habitat features.
Uncertainty about threats must be presented clearly. Where there is disagreement among experts over the magnitude or likelihood of impacts, the nature of the debate should be presented and a balanced reference list included. The relative degree of the impact must also be presented with suitable explanations.
Identify and evaluate natural limiting factors and real or potential anthropogenic threats to the wildlife species and explain what effect they are likely to have. Discuss those characteristics that make it particularly susceptible to disturbance. Discuss biological, environmental or other factors limiting population size and/or distribution of the wildlife species or population(s) being designated. Factors to consider include limiting nutrient(s) or element(s), loss, degradation or fragmentation of habitat (due to soil disturbance, water manipulation, water pollution, agricultural runoff, mowing, burning, logging, other forestry practices, nutrient enrichment, herbicide or insecticide use, agricultural tillage, other agricultural practices, road salting, mining, trampling, camping, water or air pollution, land clearing and stress from invasive wildlife species, urban or other development, land use practices), or hybridization resulting in genetic swamping, and other factors. Inter- and intra-specific competition, predation, disease are events that normally occur in nature; however, if any of these events are aggravated or amplified by human activities and result in increased pressures on a population, report them as threats but give details of the anthropogenic involvement. For example, fresh water mussels are preyed upon by raccoons but adoption of conservation tillage practices by farmers has led to significant increases in raccoon populations in some watersheds, and increased predation pressure on mussels as evidenced by increased frequencies and sizes of shell middens. Populations may also be at risk from disturbance or over-utilization through hunting/fishing/collecting for food, trade, trophies, medicinal uses, wildflower or specimen collection, horticultural collection, or pet trade. Discuss the imminence and magnitude of the threats and provide qualifications or references for the threats. Indicate if any of the factors that were responsible for the loss or decline of the wildlife species is reversible.
Summarize if already presented in other parts of the report. Otherwise, address any of the following that are relevant to a wildlife species’ special significance: The endemicity of the wildlife species, subspecies, variety, etc. to Canada, especially if it is a relict wildlife species or a wildlife species in a monotypic genus; its ecological role (e.g. sentinel species, target species, keystone species, indicator species, top predator, significant prey item); the worldwide status of the wildlife species; the security of the taxonomic unit and whether any related forms are at risk; the importance of the gene pool, apart for survival, per se; the importance or special interest of the wildlife species for scientific reasons; its importance to the public, specifying the reason(s) ( e.g. hunting, sport fishing, food, especially subsistence exploitation, commercial exploitation, national or international trade for crafts, pets, aquaria, horticulture, recreation); its social-economic importance, such as medicinal, ethnobotanical, ethnozoological or cullinary characteristics; any adverse public opinion or prejudice against the wildlife species; any confusion with a more common wildlife species to its detriment.
Describe any legislation, regulations, customs or conditions that currently serve to protect the wildlife species. This could include:
If this is an updated status report and the wildlife species already receives protection under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), explain how the wildlife species is being protected (e.g., prohibitions created to protect the wildlife species from harm and its residence from being destroyed; whether or not critical habitat has been identified and is protected, etc.). If there is a Recovery Strategy, an Action Plan or Management Plan in place, briefly describe the key actions that have been implemented. If not, indicate the timelines for finalizing these recovery planning documents. If the wildlife species is receiving protection under provincial or territorial legislation, describe the prohibitions and recovery actions that have been implemented. Some helpful website addresses are available on the COSEWIC website under the heading Required Contacts for Information on Wildlife Species.
Non Legal Status and Ranks
Identify non legal status or ranks the species has, such as a status in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Give the species’ global (G) rank, national (N) ranks and subnational (S) ranks assigned by NatureServe, Conservation Data Centres (CDCs) or Natural Heritage Information Centres. These ranks and their definitions can be found on the NatureServe Explorer web page (http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/). The definitions should be presented in the text. Provide the most current Canadian and provincial/territorial General Status ranks, which can be found at http://www.wildspecies.ca/.
The technical summary is available on the COSEWIC web site as part of the Formatting Template. Complete the technical summary after you have finished the report. A technical summary for each proposed designation unit should be provided separately as well as one for the entire wildlife species within Canada. For the meanings of terms in this Technical Summary, refer to the section entitled COSEWIC Definitions Associated with Quantitatve Criteria found accompanying the Instructions for the Preparation of COSEWIC Status Reports on the COSEWIC/COSEPAC website http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/. Questions about the technical summary should be directed to the appropriate SSC Co-chair. All information presented in the technical summary must be presented in the report.
Provide requested data and estimations in the fields on the right-hand column and relevant auxiliary information in the fields on the left-hand column (e.g. calculation of Extent of occurrence). Replace default text with the information requested. If details are provided in text, cite relevant section(s) or page(s). In filling the table of number of mature individuals per population, the author can add or delete rows as needed.
The table for “Recommended Status and Reasons for Designation” is to be completed in the Interim Report by the SSC; COSEWIC will approve or modify the text in this section for the Final Report.
Acknowledge individuals, authorities and agencies that provided assistance and/or funding, or otherwise contributed to the report.
Under a separate subheading, provide a list of authorities contacted together with title, affiliation, city, province/state, and country if outside Canada. The list should include all of the Required Contacts for Information on Wildlife Species posted on the COSEWIC web site. List any cited personal communications in the Information Sources section below. If the report writer deems that individuals that provided personal communications are worthy of acknowledging, do so here but their name should also appear as an entry under Information Sources.
If this is an updated status report, acknowledge all report writers involved in the preparation of the original status report on the wildlife species and any previous updated reports.
List all literature and personal communications cited in the text, figures and tables. Cite multiple references chronologically in the text as follows: (Hanson et al.. 1989; Briggins et al.. 1995; Brownell, 1998; COSEWIC 2002) or (Licht 1971a,b; Scott 1986; Trites 1990, 2003; Hogarth 1993). Cite personal communications as: (Smith pers. comm. 1999); and electronic sources as: (Michigan DNR 1998). When possible, use primary literature (i.e., cite websites only when the information comes from a credible source and the information is not available in printed form). Arrange all citations in alphabetical order as in the following example. [Note that the text in bold illustrates the type of citation only and is not to be included in the bibliography]
Briggins, B.G., R.J. Neves, and C.K. Dohner. 1995. Draft strategy for the conservation of native freshwater mussels. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. 2 pp. [Manuscript]
Brownell, V.R. 1998. Update COSEWIC status report on the bluehearts Buchnera americana in Canada, in COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the bluehearts Buchnera americana in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. 1-15 pp. [Report - COSEWIC single author]
COSEWIC. 2002. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the margined streamside moss Scouleria marginata in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 14 pp. [Report - COSEWIC Living Document]
Hanson, J.M., W.C. Mackay, and E.E. Prepas. 1989. Effect of size-selective predation by muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) on a population of unionid clams (Anodonta grandis simpsoniana). Journal of Animal Ecology 58:15-28. [Journal Article - multiple authors]
Hogarth, M.A. 1993. Glochidial functional morphology and rarity in the Unionidae. Pp. 76-80, in A.C. Buchanan and L.M. Koch (eds.). Conservation and Management of Freshwater Mussels. Proceedings of the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee Symposium, St. Louis, Missouri. Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, Illinois. [Conference Proceedings]
Licht, L.E. 1971a. Breeding habitat and embryonic thermal requirements of the frogs, Rana aurora aurora and Rana pretiosa pretiosa, in the Pacific Northwest. Ecology 52(1):116-124. [Journal Arcticle - single author]
Licht, L.E. 1971b. The ecology of coexistence in two closely related species of frogs (Rana). Ph.D. dissertation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 155 pp. [Thesis]
McKeague, J.A. (ed.). 1978. Manual on Soil Sampling and Methods of Analysis. 2nd edition. Canadian Society of Soil Science, Ottawa, Ontario. 212 pp. [Edited Book]
Michigan DNR (Department of Natural Resources). 1998. Endangered Species Legislation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Web site: http://www.dnr.state.mi.us/wildlife/heritage/The_End/end-act.htm [accessed April 1999]. [Electronic Source]
Scott, J.A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. vii + 583 pp. [Book]
Smith, J.D., pers. comm. 1999. Email correspondence to R. Boles. November 1999. Assessment Biologist, Ministry of Species at Risk, Government of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario. [Personal Communication]
Trites, A.W. 2003. Food webs in the ocean: who eats whom and how much? Pp. 125-143. in M. Sinclair and G. Valdimarsson (eds.). Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, CABI Publishing, Wallingford. [Book Section]
Provide a brief narrative, in third person, that outlines your background including education, research interests, and any relevant experience. Stress the qualifications that make you a suitable writer for this report. Keep it to about half a page.
All institutions at whose collections were consulted, whether or not they had specimens of the wildlife species in question, should be cited in the report.
Tabular material must be created using the Table function in Word or in a spreadsheet program such as Excel (do not insert tables as images). All tables must be collected and inserted sequentially at the end of the report, with one table to a page, and should also be submitted as separate electronic files to facilitate their translation.
Figures and drawings may be submitted as hard copies for the Secretariat to scan, but preferably they should be submitted as electronic files (such as GIF, TIF or Bitmap files – contact the COSEWIC Secretariat for more information) to help facilitate final formatting and translation. All figures must reproduce well in black and white when photocopied. Colours can be used on maps and graphs, but such figures should remain interpretable in black and white. All figures must be collected and inserted sequentially at the end of the report, right after the tables, with one figure to a page.
If a figure is taken from a published document or belongs to someone other than the report writer, it must be accompanied with a letter from the author/owner indicating that rights have been obtained for their use. Include at least one illustration (line drawing) of the wildlife species with a scale bar (avoid numeric scale factors). This will be used for the cover of the report.
Appendices should be numbered sequentially. They can be used for detailed data or other pertinent material too lengthy to be included in the body of the report. Appendices containing sensitive information should not be referenced directly in the report (see the Sensitive Information subsection).
1 “Wildlife Species”: A species, subspecies, variety or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal, plant, or other organism, other than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and is either native to Canada or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.
3 IP protection provides the holder of the intellectual property the right to prevent others from doing something with a work for a certain period of time. Copyright includes giving the holder the sole right to produce, reproduce, perform or publish any translation of the work.
4 MR are the rights of an author to the integrity of a work and the right to have one’s name associated with that work. MR cannot be ceded or taken against an author’s will; however, an author can waive MR associated with that work.
For more information on IP and MR, see the internet site of the Treasury Board Secretariat: