Rare Species & Ecosystems in
Ontario's Carolinian zone is the
province's most diverse and most threatened ecological region. Over five
hundred species of plants and animals in the region are considered rare.
What Species are Rare?
Rare species are species that occur in
small numbers, in a small region or small number of locations. Such
species can be prone to become at risk of decline from human impacts or
natural events. To define rarity in scientific terms, federal and
provincial governments and scientists have developed ways to assess and classify
species into more specific categories of rarity and risk.
The federal government working with the
provinces, set up the Committee
on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada or COSEWIC to
assess the status of species at risk. COSEWIC assesses the status of
wildlife species using the best available knowledge. There are four
steps in the process: 1) determining the eligibility of species; 2)
choosing species and assigning priorities; 3) assessing the risk of
extinction; and 4) publication of COSEWIC's assessments with scientific
When a decision is made to assess a
species' status, COSEWIC commissions reports on the status of the
species. Status reports take up to two years to prepare. The status
report will be used by COSEWIC to assign the species to one of seven
- Extirpated (species no longer present
in the wild in Canada)
- Special concern
- Species not at risk, and
- Data deficient.
the new federal Species at Risk
Act, these designations will have legal force and require certain
actions and provide different
tools for species protection and restoration.
Species Act provides protection for species designated under
the Act and the Provincial
Policy Statement also provides some protection for endangered
and threatened species. To determine official provincial status. Ontario
has a parallel committee called the Committee on Species at Risk in
Ontario or COSARO.
Heritage Information Centre (NHIC), as part of an international
system of conservation data centres, also assesses species' status
globally, in Canada and in Ontario. The NHIC, working with counterparts
across Canada, the U.S. and the world, assigns Global
Ranks of 1 to 5 for species and Provincial
Ranks of 1 to 5 based on range, population size and other
factors. The Natural Heritage Information Centre also assesses the
status of ecosystem or vegetation communities.
Rare Species and Ecosystems in the
125 species in
Carolinian Canada are considered vulnerable, species of special
concern, threatened or endangered by either the federal or provincial
government (COSEWIC or COSARO). Over 400
other species in Carolinian Canada are considered rare by the
Natural Heritage Information Centre.
The Carolinian zone habitats and
ecosystems include forests, tallgrass prairies and savannas, wetlands,
streams, shorelines and other aquatic habitats. Fifty-eight
of these ecosystem types is considered rare. Each of these
ecosystems have a distinctive set of species.