Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Ammocrypta pellucida Ontario Populations Eastern Sand Darter

Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Ammocrypta pellucida Ontario Populations Eastern Sand Darter
Species at Risk Act
Recovery Strategy Series
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand
Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida) in Canada:
Ontario Populations
Eastern Sand Darter
2012
About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series
What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?
SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common
national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in
2003 and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are
extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”
What is recovery?
In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline
of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are
removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A
species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been
secured.
What is a recovery strategy?
A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest
or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main
areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.
Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three
federal agencies — Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and
Oceans Canada — under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. Sections 37–46
of SARA outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery
strategies published in this series.
Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has
to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife
Species at Risk. Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically
listed when SARA came into force.
What’s next?
In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide
implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery
strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in
recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the
species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.
The series
This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government
under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as
strategies are updated.
To learn more
To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the
SARA Public Registry.
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter
(Ammocrypta pellucida) in Canada:
Ontario Populations
2012
Recommended citation:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2012. Recovery strategy for the Eastern Sand
Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida) in Canada: Ontario populations. Species at
Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa.
vii + 58 pp.
Additional copies:
You can download additional copies from the SARA Public Registry
Cover illustration: Alan Dextrase, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Également disponible en français sous le titre :
«Programme de rétablissement du dard de sable (Ammocrypta pellucida) au Canada
[proposition]: populations de l’Ontario»
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries
and Oceans, 2012. All rights reserved.
ISBN 978-1-100-19673-2
Cat. no. En3-4/122-2011E-PDF
Content (excluding the cover illustration) may be used without permission, with
appropriate credit to the source.
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
PREFACE
A proposed recovery strategy for this species was posted on the SARA Public Registry
in July 2007, but did not include the identification of critical habitat; the current
document includes critical habitat identification to the extent possible based on the best
available information. Additionally, COSEWIC has determined the Ontario and Quebec
populations to be separate Designatable Units. Due to the differences between the
Designatable Units, each will have a separate recovery strategy.
The Eastern Sand Darter is a freshwater fish and is under the responsibility of the
federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the
competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered and
Threatened species. The Eastern Sand Darter was listed as Threatened under SARA
in June 2003. The development of this recovery strategy was led by Fisheries and
Oceans Canada – Central and Arctic region, in cooperation and consultation with many
individuals, organizations and government agencies, as indicated below. The strategy
meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41).
Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of
many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out
in this strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or any other
party, alone. This strategy provides advice to jurisdictions and organizations that may
be involved, or wish to become involved, in the recovery of the species. In the spirit of
the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of Fisheries and
Oceans invites all responsible jurisdictions and Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans
Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Eastern Sand
Darter and Canadian society as a whole. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will support
implementation of this strategy to the extent possible, given available resources and its
overall responsibility for species at risk conservation.
The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on
the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new
information. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will report on progress within five
years.
This strategy will be complemented by one or more action plans that will provide details
on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation of the species. The
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will take steps to ensure that, to the extent possible,
Canadians interested in or affected by these measures will be consulted.
RESPONSIBLE JURISDICTIONS
Under the Species at Risk Act, the responsible jurisdiction for Eastern Sand Darter is
Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Ontario government and Environment Canada
(Canadian Wildlife Service) also cooperated in the production of this recovery strategy.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
AUTHORS
This document was prepared by Amy Boyko (DFO), Becky Cudmore (DFO), and
Andrea Doherty (DFO) on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Fisheries and Oceans Canada would like to thank the following organizations for their
support in the development of the Eastern Sand Darter (Ontario population) recovery
strategy: Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery Team, Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, Upper Thames River Conservation
Authority, Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, Grand River Conservation
Authority, University of Waterloo, and the University of Toronto.
Maps were developed by Carolyn Bakelaar (DFO), Alan Dextrase (OMNR), Shady
Abbas (DFO), and Andrew Doolittle (DFO).
STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT STATEMENT
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy,
Plan and Program Proposals, the purpose of a Strategic Environmental Assessment
(SEA) is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public
policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally-sound decision
making.
Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general.
However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental
effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national
guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a
particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats.
This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of
the Eastern Sand Darter. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse
effects on other species was considered. In cases where critical habitats of multiple
species occur, an ecosystem approach to the management of habitat is required to
maximize benefit to co-occurring species at risk (of all taxa, including fishes, birds,
reptiles, etc). Such an approach recognizes that negative impacts to some species and
their habitats may result from habitat management practices aimed at achieving an
overall net benefit to the ecosystem and the species at risk that it supports. The SEA
concluded that such an ecosystem approach in the implementation of this strategy will
benefit the environment and will minimize any adverse effects. Refer to the following
sections of the document in particular: Description of the species’ habitat and biological
needs, ecological role and limiting factors (1.4); Recovery feasibility (2.1); Approaches
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
recommended to meet recovery objectives (2.5); Critical habitat (2.7) and, Effects on
other species (2.10).
RESIDENCE
SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area
or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or
part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or
hibernating” [SARA S2(1)].
In this context, Eastern Sand Darter do not construct residences during their life cycle
and therefore the concept does not apply (Bouvier and Mandrak 2010).
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Eastern Sand Darter is a small benthic and translucent fish whose North American
range is discontinuous and composed of two disjunct areas. One element occurs in the
Great Lakes and Ohio River drainage, while the other occurs in Lake Champlain and
the St. Lawrence River. In Ontario, it has been recently collected in Lake Erie, Lake St.
Clair, the Grand, Sydenham and Thames rivers, and Big Creek.
There are limited data available on the Eastern Sand Darter throughout its Canadian
range. Nevertheless, the data that are available suggest that Eastern Sand Darter
populations are declining throughout their entire range. In Canada, total numbers have
been declining since 1950. The silting of sandy habitats represents the main cause for
the decline in abundance and range of Eastern Sand Darter. Threats to Canadian
populations include: sediment loading, nutrient loading, and pollution resulting from
agricultural and urban development. Barriers to movement (e.g., dams and
impoundments) and alterations in flow regimes and coastal processes negatively affect
the Eastern Sand Darter. Invasive species, such as the Round Goby, may also be
negatively impacting the species.
This recovery strategy defines the goal, objectives and recommended approaches
considered necessary for the protection and recovery of the Eastern Sand Darter in
Ontario.
The long-term goal (> 20 years) of this recovery strategy is to maintain self-sustaining,
extant populations and to restore self-sustaining populations to formerly occupied
habitats where feasible. In some locations, permanent changes in the fish community,
as a result of the establishment of exotic species, may impact the feasibility of reestablishing Eastern Sand Darter populations.
The population and distribution objective for Eastern Sand Darter is to ensure the
survival of self-sustaining population(s) at the six extant locations (Sydenham River,
Thames River, Lake St. Clair, Big Creek, Grand River, Lake Erie [Long Point Bay]) and
restore self-sustaining population(s) at the following locations: Ausable River, Lake Erie
(Rondeau Bay and Pelee Island), Catfish Creek, and Big Otter Creek, where feasible.
Short-term recovery objectives (5 - 10 years)
In support of the long-term goal, the following short-term recovery objectives will be
addressed over the next 5 -10 years:
i.
ii.
iii.
iv.
v.
Refine population and distribution objectives;
Ensure the protection of critical habitat;
Determine long-term population and habitat trends;
Evaluate and minimize threats to the species and its habitat;
Investigate the feasibility of population supplementation or repatriation for
populations that may be extirpated or reduced;
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
vi.
vii.
2012
Enhance efficiency of recovery efforts through coordination with aquatic and
terrestrial ecosystem recovery teams and other relevant or complementary
groups/initiatives; and,
Improve overall awareness of the Eastern Sand Darter and the role of healthy
aquatic ecosystems, and their importance to humans.
Using best available information, the area in which critical habitat is found has been
identified to the extent possible for extant Eastern Sand Darter locations in the
Sydenham River, Thames River, Grand River, Big Creek (Norfolk County), and Lake
Erie (Long Point Bay). A schedule of studies has been developed that outlines
necessary steps to obtain the information to refine these critical habitat descriptions.
Some measures have already been implemented for the recovery of the Eastern Sand
Darter in Ontario. Several Eastern Sand Darter surveys have been conducted from
1997 to 2010 in historically and/or currently occupied waterbodies. Also, five ecosystem
or multi-species recovery strategies that include Eastern Sand Darter recovery have
been initiated in Ontario.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE ........................................................................................................................ I
RESPONSIBLE JURISDICTIONS ................................................................................... I
AUTHORS....................................................................................................................... II
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................. II
STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT STATEMENT .................................... II
RESIDENCE .................................................................................................................. III
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY................................................................................................IV
1.
BACKGROUND ..................................................................................... 1
1.1
Species assessment information from COSEWIC ................................. 1
1.2
Description ............................................................................................. 2
1.3
Populations and distribution ................................................................... 2
1.4
Needs of the Eastern Sand Darter ......................................................... 7
1.4.1
Habitat and biological needs .................................................................. 7
1.4.2
Ecological role........................................................................................ 8
1.4.3
Limiting factors ....................................................................................... 9
1.5
Threats ................................................................................................... 9
1.5.1
Threat classification................................................................................ 9
1.5.2
Description of threats ........................................................................... 11
1.6
Actions already completed or underway............................................... 14
1.7
Knowledge gaps................................................................................... 16
2.
RECOVERY ......................................................................................... 17
2.1
Recovery feasibility .............................................................................. 17
2.2
Recovery goal ...................................................................................... 18
2.3
Population and distribution objectives(s) .............................................. 19
2.4
Recovery objectives ............................................................................. 19
2.5
Approaches recommended to meet recovery objectives...................... 20
2.5.1
Recovery planning................................................................................ 20
2.6
Performance measures ........................................................................ 27
2.7
Critical habitat ...................................................................................... 29
2.7.1
General identification of the Eastern Sand Darter’s critical habitat....... 29
2.7.2
Information and methods used to identify critical habitat...................... 29
2.7.3
Identification of critical habitat: biophysical functions, features and their
attributes .............................................................................................. 31
2.7.4
Identification of critical habitat: geospatial ............................................ 32
2.7.4.1
Population viability ............................................................................... 43
2.7.5
Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat....................................... 44
2.7.6
Examples of activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat
............................................................................................................. 45
2.8
Activities permitted by the recovery strategy ........................................ 48
2.9
Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection.............. 49
2.10
Effects on other species ....................................................................... 50
2.11
Recommended approach for recovery implementation ........................ 50
2.12
Statement on action plans.................................................................... 51
3
REFERENCES..................................................................................... 52
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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LIST OF PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS.................................................................. 57
APPENDIX 1 – DEFINITION OF STATUS RANKINGS ................................................ 58
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. The Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida)........................................... 2
Figure 2. Global Eastern Sand Darter distribution in North America. .............................. 3
Figure 3. Ontario distribution of the Eastern Sand Darter................................................ 5
Figure 4. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in the
Sydenham River..................................................................................................... 34
Figure 5. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in the
Thames River......................................................................................................... 36
Figure 6. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in the
Grand River............................................................................................................ 38
Figure 7. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in Big
Creek. .................................................................................................................... 40
Figure 8. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in Long
Point Bay (Lake Erie). ............................................................................................ 42
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1. Global, national and sub-national heritage ranks from NatureServe 2012. ....... 6
Table 2. Relative abundance index, population trajectory and population status of each
Eastern Sand Darter population in Ontario. ............................................................. 7
Table 3. Summary of threats to Eastern Sand Darter populations in Ontario................ 10
Table 4. Summary of recent Eastern Sand Darter surveys in Ontario (since 1997). ..... 15
Table 5. Recovery approaches for Eastern Sand Darter in Ontario – research and
monitoring. ............................................................................................................. 20
Table 6. Survey needs for Eastern Sand Darter in specific waterbodies in Ontario. ..... 22
Table 7. Recovery approaches for Eastern Sand Darter in Ontario – management and
habitat protection.................................................................................................... 24
Table 9. Performance measures for evaluating the achievement of recovery objectives.
............................................................................................................................... 28
Table 10. Essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for each life stage
of the Eastern Sand Darter. ................................................................................... 31
Table 11. Coordinates locating the boundaries within which critical habitat is found for
the Eastern Sand Darter at five locations............................................................... 32
Table 12. Comparison of the area within which critical habitat is found for each Eastern
Sand Darter population, relative to the estimated minimum area for population
viability (MAPV)...................................................................................................... 44
Table 13. Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat. ............................................... 44
Table 14. Human activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat for Eastern
Sand Darter............................................................................................................ 46
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
1.
BACKGROUND
1.1
Species assessment information from COSEWIC
2012
Scientific name: Ammocrypta pellucida (Girard 1856)
Common name: Eastern Sand Darter, dard de sable
Current COSEWIC status & year of designation: Threatened 2009
Canadian occurrence: Ontario, Quebec
Reason for designation: This species prefers sand bottom areas of lakes and
streams in which it burrows. There is continuing decline in the already small and
fragmented populations; four (of 11) have probably been extirpated. The extent of
occurrence of this species in Ontario is approximately half of what it was in the
1970s as a result of habitat loss and degradation from increasing urban and
agricultural development, stream channelization and competition with invasive alien
species.
Status history: The species was considered a single unit and designated
Threatened in April 1994 and November 2000. When the species was split into
separate units in November 2009, the "Ontario populations" unit was designated
Threatened.
Classification: The current classification of the Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta
pellucida) is from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database
(accessed March 07, 2005):
Phylum:
Subphylum:
Superclass:
Class:
Subclass:
Infraclass:
Superorder:
Order:
Suborder:
Family:
Species:
Chordata
Vertebrata
Osteichthyes
Actinopterygii
Neopterygii
Teleostei
Acanthopterygii
Perciformes
Percoidei
Percidae
Ammocrypta pellucida
Recent molecular analyses support a monophyletic genus Ammocrypta (Song et al.
1998, Near et al. 2000, Sloss et al. 2004). A. clara (Western Sand Darter) and A. vivax
(Scaly Sand Darter) have previously been considered subspecies and/or synonyms of
A. pellucida (Grandmaison et al. 2004); both are now considered valid species.
Records of A. pellucida in the Mississippi River drainage north of the Ohio River
confluence represent A. clara while records from the southern reaches represent A.
clara or A. vivax (Williams 1975). A. pellucida and A. clara have overlapping
distributions in Indiana and Illinois within the Wabash River drainage, and in Kentucky
within the Cumberland and Green river drainages.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
1.2
2012
Description
The Eastern Sand Darter is a small fish with translucent flesh and an elongate body,
almost round in cross-section (Scott 1955) (Figure 1). Adults range in total length (TL)
from 46-71 mm (Trautman 1981), averaging 68 mm TL (Scott and Crossman 1973).
The largest individual captured in Ontario, from the Grand River in 1987 (Holm and
Mandrak 1996), was 84 mm TL. Adults exhibit a faint yellowish or greenish colouration
on the dorsal surface of the head and body, a narrow metallic gold to olive-gold band
passing subcutaneously along a line of lateral green rounded blotches, and a white or
silvery hue on the ventral surface (Trautman 1981). Young fish are more silvery with
little or no yellow (Scott and Crossman 1973, Trautman 1981). Males in breeding
condition are flushed with a yellowish colouration and develop tubercles on their pelvic
fins. A row of 12 -16 dark greenish blotches are located along the dorsum, which
differentiate into rows of paired spots along the base of the dorsal fins, one spot on
either side of the fin (Trautman 1981). Nine to 14 (10-14 Scott and Crossman 1973; 1014 Holm and Mandrak 1996) spots also occur along the lateral line (Trautman 1981).
Webbing of fins is transparent; although some individuals sport a yellowish tinge
(Trautman 1981). Dorsal fins are separate; the first dorsal fin is spiny (8-11 weak
spines), and the second dorsal has soft rays (9-12 rays) (Scott and Crossman 1973).
Males have black pigment on the pelvic fin (Page and Burr 1991). Scales are absent
from its ventral side with 1-3 scale rows immediately beneath the lateral line (Trautman
1981).
(Drawing by E. Edmonson & H. Crisp [NYSDC])
Figure 1. The Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida).
1.3
Populations and distribution
Global range (Figure 2): The Eastern Sand Darter inhabits the Ohio River and Great
Lakes drainage and is also found in the Lake Champlain and St. Lawrence River
drainages (Figure 2) (Scott and Crossman 1973), which forms part of a disjunct element
of the distribution. It occurs in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec and nine
American states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Vermont, and West Virginia.
Ontario range (Figure 3): The Eastern Sand Darter has been recently collected in
lakes Erie and St. Clair, and from the Sydenham, Grand and Thames rivers, as well as
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Big Creek (Norfolk County) (Holm and Mandrak 1996, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
[DFO], unpublished data, A. Dextrase, Ontario Ministry of Resources [OMNR],
unpublished data). Populations are presumed to be extirpated from Big Otter Creek,
Catfish Creek, and the Ausable River (Ausable River Recovery Team [ARRT] 2005).
Lake Erie: In Lake Erie, Eastern Sand Darter records exist for Pelee Island (last
collected in 1953), the north shore of Lake Erie (Colchester Beach and Holiday Beach
Provincial Park; last collected 1975), Rondeau Bay, and Inner Long Point Bay.
Lake St. Clair: Eastern Sand Darter has been collected from several areas of Lake St.
Clair over the past 25 years, specifically the south shore between the outlet of Pike
Creek and the Thames River, and Mitchell’s Bay.
Figure 2. Global Eastern Sand Darter distribution in North America.
Sydenham River: Eastern Sand Darter records exist in the East Sydenham River
between the Shetland Conservation Area and Dawn Mills, with a disjunct population
further upstream between Strathroy and Alvinston (Dextrase et al. 2003).
Thames River: This species has been found in the lower Thames River watershed
between Komoka and Kent Bridge.
Grand River: In the Grand River, Eastern Sand Darter occurs in all sandy areas in the
lower main stem from Brantford to just downstream of Cayuga.
Big Creek (Norfolk County): The Eastern Sand Darter was collected from Big Creek in
1923 and 1955. It had not been collected in more recent surveys until three adults were
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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captured from three different sites in 2008, confirming the continued presence of the
species in the watershed.
Big Otter Creek: The Eastern Sand Darter was collected from Big Otter Creek in 1923
and 1955. It has not been collected in more recent surveys.
Catfish Creek: The Eastern Sand Darter was collected from Catfish Creek in 1922 and
1941. It has not been collected in more recent surveys.
Ausable River: There is a single record of Eastern Sand Darter occurring in the river
near Ailsa Craig from a 1928 survey. Subsequent searches at this site, and elsewhere
in the watershed in potentially suitable habitat, failed to recapture the species.
Percent of global range in Canada: NatureServe (2012) estimates just over 100
recent (since 1970) occurrences of Eastern Sand Darter in North America.
Grandmaison et al. (2004) identified approximately 75 streams where Eastern Sand
Darter is extant. As there are approximately 16 extant occurrences in Canada, around
10 to 20% of the Eastern Sand Darter’s global range is found in Canada, and
approximately 50% of this is in Ontario.
Distribution trend: Habitat loss and poor water quality have resulted in a reduced
distribution. In Canada, Eastern Sand Darter has declined or become extirpated from
11 of 21 locations. Over the past 50 years, 45% of population occurrences in Ontario
have been lost (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada [COSEWIC]
2009). Several new sites have been found since the 1970s; however, the net result is a
reduction in distribution (Holm and Mandrak 1996).
Global population size and status: There is little information available concerning the
abundance of Eastern Sand Darter over its entire global range. The short-term rate of
decline would be between 10% and 30%, whereas long-term decline ranges between
50% and 75% (COSEWIC 2000). NatureServe (2012) estimates Eastern Sand Darter
global abundance to be greater than 10 000 individuals.
The Eastern Sand Darter has experienced population declines throughout its global
range (Page and Burr 1991, Holm and Mandrak 1996). It is considered globally secure
(G4) (NatureServe 2012) and was designated as Vulnerable by The World
Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1996 (Gimenez Dixon 1996).
The Eastern Sand Darter is not listed federally in the U.S. The American Fisheries
Society has designated this species as Vulnerable (Jelks et al. 2008). It is listed as
Endangered in Pennsylvania (State of Pennsylvania 2005) and Threatened in Illinois
(Illinois Department of Natural Resources 2010), New York (New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation 2010), Michigan (Michigan Department of
Natural Resources 2010), and Vermont (Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department 2010). It
is considered a Species of Concern in Ohio (Ohio Department of Natural Resources
2010). It was previously listed as Special Concern in Indiana; however, it was downlisted after a state-wide survey in 2004 determined it to be well distributed (B. Fisher,
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, pers. comm., 2005).
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Figure 3. Ontario distribution of the Eastern Sand Darter.
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Canadian population size and status: In Canada, Eastern Sand Darter population
sizes are unknown, but numbers are nevertheless in decline since 1950 according to
estimates. COSEWIC (2000) estimated that the rate of decline would have reached
50% between 1955 and 1970. It also estimated that the species’ extent of occurrence
(based on the length in km of the rivers occupied by the species) was less than 20 000
km2. The extent of occurrence is 10 840km2 (COSEWIC 2009).
The Eastern Sand Darter is listed as Threatened on Schedule 1 of the Canadian
Species at Risk Act (SARA). It is ranked N2N3 in Canada (NatureServe 2012) and the
COSEWIC designated it as Threatened. It is also listed as Threatened in Ontario under
the Endangered Species Act 2007 (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources [OMNR]
2010b), and Threatened in Quebec by the Ministere des Ressources Naturelles et de la
Faune (MRNF) (in French only). See Table 1 for national and sub-national ranks.
Table 1. Global, national and sub-national heritage ranks from NatureServe 2012.
Rank level
Global
National
Sub-national
Rank 1
G4
N4 (30Aug2009)
N2N3
(17Nov2010)
S4
S3
S2S3
S2
S1S2
S1
Jurisdictions
United States
Canada
Indiana, Kentucky
Ohio
West Virginia
New York, Ontario, Quebec
Michigan
Illinois, Pennsylvania, Vermont
Percent of global abundance in Canada: No global or Canadian abundance
estimates have been undertaken.
Population trend: The Eastern Sand Darter was presumed common and widespread in
the early 1900s (Holm and Mandrak 1996). However, it is estimated to have
disappeared from half of its historical locations and its abundance reduced in remaining
populations.
The status of Eastern Sand Darter populations in Ontario was assessed by Bouvier and
Mandrak (2010). Populations were ranked with respect to abundance and trajectory.
Population abundance and trajectory were then combined to determine the population
status. A certainty level was also assigned to the population status, which reflected the
lowest level of certainty associated with either population abundance or trajectory. A
summary is provided in Table 2. Refer to Bouvier and Mandrak (2010) for further
details on the methodology.
1
See Appendix 1 for description of ranks.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Table 2. Relative abundance index, population trajectory and population status of each
Eastern Sand Darter population in Ontario.
Population 2
Lake Huron
Ausable River
Lake St. Clair
Lake St. Clair
Thames River
Sydenham River
Lake Erie
Pelee Island
Rondeau Bay
Long Point Bay
Catfish Creek
Big Otter Creek
Big Creek
Grand River
Relative
abundance
index
Certainty 3
Population
trajectory
Certainty
Population
status
Extirpated
2
Not applicable
2
Extirpated
Low
High
Low
2
1
2
Declining
Stable
Unknown
3
1
3
Poor
Good
Poor
Unknown
Unknown
Low
Extirpated
Extirpated
Low
High
3
3
2
3
3
3
2
Unknown
Unknown
Declining
Not applicable
Not applicable
Unknown
Stable
3
3
2
3
3
3
2
Unknown
Unknown
Poor
Extirpated
Extirpated
Poor
Good
(Modified from Bouvier and Mandrak 2010)
1.4
Needs of the Eastern Sand Darter
1.4.1 Habitat and biological needs
Spawning habitat description: Spawning generally occurs at temperatures between 20.5
and 25.5oC (Johnston 1989, Facey 1995, 1998). Based on gonadal examination, Holm
and Mandrak (1996) estimated spawning in Ontario to occur between late June and late
July but may be as early as late April (Finch 2009), or as late as mid-August as seen in
the U.S. (Spreitzer 1979, Johnston 1989, Facey 1995, 1998). Spawning has not been
observed in the wild. In the laboratory, Eastern Sand Darter has spawned on
substrates that were a mixture of sand and gravel (Johnston 1989). Spawning does not
seem to depend on time of day.
Young of the Year (YOY) and juvenile habitat description: There is little known about
YOY and juvenile habitat requirements, but recently transformed juveniles have been
caught in the same habitat as adults (A. Dextrase, OMNR, unpublished data). Simon
and Wallus (2006) found that early juveniles were more tolerant of the silt margins than
adults. Drake et al. (2008) found that juvenile growth was faster in habitats with less
silt. There is some evidence that Eastern Sand Darter have a larval drift phase, which
2
Note that, for lack of supporting data, a location was assumed to have a single population when
population status was assessed by Bouvier and Mandrak (2010).
3
Certainty is listed as: 1=quantitative analysis; 2=CPUE or standardized sampling; 3=best guess.
7
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
emphasizes the importance of having suitable nursery habitat downstream of spawning
areas (Simon and Wallus 2006).
Adult habitat description: The Eastern Sand Darter inhabits streams, rivers and sandy
shoals in lakes, and is typically strongly associated with fine sandy substrates and fine
gravel (greater than 90% sand) (Daniels 1993, Facey 1995, Facey and O’Brien 2004,
Drake et al. 2008). Abundance is greatest on the depositional side of bends along
small- to medium-sized rivers with a gentle current and minimal fine sediment
deposition (Trautman 1981, Facey 1995). Few fishes of temperate streams are as
strongly associated with a specific habitat type as this species. Daniels (1993) found
the nearest neighbouring fish was overwhelmingly (93%) another Eastern Sand Darter,
showing also that individuals aggregate in areas of suitable habitat. Eastern Sand
Darter are also found near sandbars, in shallow pools (Welsh and Perry 1997), and in
the sandy raceways of streams and rivers (Kuehne and Barbour 1983, Page 1983).
Lentic populations of Eastern Sand Darter in lakes Erie and St. Clair are typically
associated with nearshore habitats such as wave-protected sandy beaches, sandy
shores, and shallow bays (van Meter and Trautman 1970, Thomas and Haas 2004,
Gaudreau 2005). Additionally, YOY surveys indicate that Eastern Sand Darter were
found at river/stream mouths (OMNR, unpublished data).
The Eastern Sand Darter was thought to be typically found in shallow habitats. Facey
(1995) did not find Eastern Sand Darter in deep habitats characterized by high velocities
and coarser sand. Lack of capture from deep habitats may be, in part, an artefact of
sampling method and accessibility rather than habitat preference (i.e., choice of
sampling stations is typically dictated by accessibility) (Daniels 1993, Facey 1995,
Welsh and Perry 1997, O’Brien and Facey 2008, Drake et al. 2008). In Lake Erie, Scott
and Crossman (1973) reported a trawl-caught individual at a depth of 14.6 m and more
than 100 individuals were caught in the Grand River in depths > 1.5 m (N. Mandrak,
DFO, pers. comm., 2010). However, Eastern Sand Darter were not captured during the
systematic trawl sampling of western Lake St. Clair in water deeper than 2 m (Thomas
and Haas 2004)
1.4.2 Ecological role
The Eastern Sand Darter is one of the rare species that exploits sandy habitats and
related resources. It is also the only member of the genus Ammocrypta in Canada and,
consequently, an integral part of Canada’s wildlife heritage. In addition to contributing
to the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems, this species is an indicator of unpolluted
streams (Gaudreau 2005). Additionally, the Eastern Sand Darter is a potential fish host
for the Round Hickorynut (Obovaria subrotunda), a freshwater mussel that is
endangered in Canada (Clarke 1981).
8
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
1.4.3 Limiting factors
The Eastern Sand Darter is not very flexible in terms of habitat needs (i.e., it is
dependent on silt-free sand), thus it is vulnerable to any factor likely to affect its habitat
(COSEWIC 2000, Grandmaison et al. 2004, Gaudreau 2005, NatureServe 2012). The
Eastern Sand Darter is a small fish with limited dispersal ability that exists as a
collection of disjunct populations in Canada. Therefore, extirpated populations have
little opportunity to be re-established through natural movements.
The fecundity of the Eastern Sand Darter is low (clutch sizes of 35-123 mature ova)
(Finch 2009), which could contribute to yearly population fluctuations (Facey 1998) and
population declines. Females reach sexual maturity at about one year (42 mm TL)
(Spreitzer 1979) and generally live for over two years. Females older than three have
been found on the Thames River (Finch 2009).
1.5
Threats
1.5.1 Threat classification
Bouvier and Mandrak (2010) assessed threats to Eastern Sand Darter populations in
Ontario. Table 3 provides a summary of threats to Eastern Sand Darter populations in
Ontario. Known and suspected threats were ranked with respect to threat likelihood
and threat impact for each population. The threat likelihood and threat impact were
then combined to produce an overall threat status. A certainty level was also assigned
to the overall threat status, which reflected the lowest level of certainty associated with
either threat likelihood or threat impact. See Bouvier and Mandrak (2010) for further
details. The threats to Eastern Sand Darter populations overlap and their cumulative
impacts may exacerbate their decline. The cumulative impacts cannot be quantified so
each threat was reviewed independently. Additional information is provided in the
subsequent threat descriptions.
9
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Table 3. Summary of threats to Eastern Sand Darter populations in Ontario.
Threat Status for all Eastern Sand Darter populations in Ontario, resulting from an analysis of both the Threat Likelihood and Threat Impact. The
number in brackets refers to the level of certainty assigned to each Threat Status, which reflects the lowest level of certainty associated with either
initial parameter (Threat Likelihood, or Threat Impact). Certainty has been classified as: 1= causative studies; 2=correlative studies; and, 3=expert
opinion. Gray cells indicate that the threat is not applicable to the population due to the nature of the aquatic system where the population is
located.
Lake
Huron
Lake St. Clair
Lake Erie
Ausable
River
Lake
St. Clair
Thames
River
Sydenham
River
Pelee
Island
Rondeau
Bay
Long
Point
Bay
Catfish
Creek
Big Otter
Creek
Big
Creek
Grand
River
Turbidity and
sediment
loading
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
Medium
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
Contaminants
and toxic
substances
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
Unknown
(3)
High
(3)
Medium
(3)
Unknown
(3)
Unknown
(3)
Unknown
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Low
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Low
(3)
Medium
(3)
High
(3)
Medium
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
Threats
Nutrient
loading
High
(3)
Barriers to
movement
Altered flow
regimes
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
Shoreline
modifications
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
Medium
(3)
High
(3)
Low
(3)
Medium
(3)
TBD
TBD
High
(3)
Exotic species
and disease
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
High
(3)
Incidental
harvest
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
Low
(3)
(Table taken from Bouvier and Mandrak 2010)
10
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
1.5.2 Description of threats
The following has been adapted and revised from Bouvier and Mandrak (2010).
Turbidity and sediment loading: Siltation may be the leading cause of habitat
degradation in Canada (Holm and Mandrak 1996). Increased turbidity and sediment
loading can result from deforestation and the loss of riparian strips, which is often a
result of intensive agricultural practices, tile drainage, channel alterations, poorly
constructed water crossing, dams, and increasing urban development. Increased
sediment loading can decrease bank stability downstream, which also increases erosion
downstream and the process can continue for extended distances (Dextrase et al.
2003).
The impacts of silt are pervasive and extensive. Excessive siltation can affect all life
stages of the Eastern Sand Darter (COSEWIC 2009). Increased turbidity and sediment
loading can:
• Completely smother the eggs (Finch 2009);
• Reduce the number and quality of suitable spawning areas leading to decreases
in egg survival (Finch 2009);
• Decrease or restrict growth rates of juveniles (Drake et al. 2008);
• Reduce available substrate oxygen (Holm and Mandrak 1996, Essex-Erie
Recovery Team [EERT] 2008); and,
• Adversely affect prey abundance (Holm and Mandrak 1996, EERT 2008).
It is thought that standard tobacco farming practices near Big Otter Creek between the
1930s and 1960s, which resulted in heavy siltation, may have been the main reason for
the extirpation of Eastern Sand Darter from this watershed (Holm and Mandrak 1996).
Fortunately programs such as the Environmental Farm Plan promote changes in
agricultural practices to lower the potential severity of this threat. The relatively few
areas of silt-free suitable habitat in the Sydenham River may be the main limiting factor
for Eastern Sand Darter in this system (Dextrase et al. 2003). However, the impacts
from increased turbidity and sediment loading may be reversible, if caught early;
populations of Eastern Sand Darter in Vermont and New York have benefited from
decreased silt loads as a result of reforestation of stream slopes (Daniels 1993).
Contaminants and toxic substances: Contaminants and toxic substances are a
pervasive threat for Eastern Sand Darter (COSEWIC 2009). These substances can
come from urban, industrial or agricultural activities. Their presence in aquatic
environments leads to decreased water quality and can have a negative impact on each
stage of a fish’s life cycle. The severity of impacts is likely linked to duration and
intensity of exposure. Contaminants can directly kill the individual, its food or can slowly
degrade the watercourse affecting all life history parameters. Contaminants can be
chronic or episodic and may also be cumulative (EERT 2008).
The Eastern Sand Darter is considered to be intolerant to pollution (Barbour et al. 1999)
but species-specific tolerances have not been investigated. Since the Eastern Sand
11
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Darter buries itself and its eggs in the substrate, the consequence of toxic substances
may be greater on this species than other fishes (Grandmaison et al. 2004).
Nutrient loading: Nutrient loading can have impacts on water quality, especially in
riverine systems. One pathway is through the eutrophication of streams. Excessive
growth of aquatic plants, algae, or periphyton as a result of increased nutrient input, can
reduce the amount of oxygen found in the water, which threatens benthic species such
as the Eastern Sand Darter (FAPAQ 2002). Nutrient loading primarily comes from
manure and fertilizer applications or sewage treatment facilities (Page and Retzer
2002). Between 1955 and 1980, Lake Erie experienced excessive nutrient input
resulting in extensive oxygen depletion (Koonce et al. 1996).
In the Ausable, Sydenham, and Thames rivers (Staton et al. 2003, Taylor et al. 2004,
Nelson 2006) and in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie (EERT 2008), nutrient loading has
been identified as a primary threat to species at risk. In the Sydenham River, high
levels of nitrates have been associated with low numbers of Eastern Sand Darter (Poos
et al. 2008).
Barriers to movement: Dams are the most obvious, but not the only, barrier to
movement for Eastern Sand Darter. Improperly designed and installed culverts could
create a physical barrier or may preclude the Eastern Sand Darter from being able to
move upstream due to high velocities or shallow water depth in the culvert. This may
be relevant if Eastern Sand Darter are found in smaller tributaries where culverts are
common. There are two large dams on the Grand River, and one dam on the
Sydenham River within the range of Eastern Sand Darter. Data from the Grand River
show that on the upstream side of a dam, locations close to the dam are less likely to be
occupied by Eastern Sand Darter (A. Dextrase, OMNR, unpublished data).
Barriers to movement could lead to the fragmentation of Eastern Sand Darter
populations. Small, increasingly isolated populations may suffer inbreeding effects and
a loss of genetic diversity that could impair their ability to respond to changing
environmental conditions (Grandmaison et al. 2004).
Altered flow regimes: There are many activities that can alter the flow within a riverine
system, such as the presence of a dam and impoundment, water-taking for agricultural
or urban purposes, construction of tile drains, or channel modifications.
The construction of a dam changes stream flow by transforming a lotic (moving water)
environment into a lentic (standing water) environment, flooding upstream riffles and
sandbars and allowing the growth of aquatic macrophytes. When current speed is
slowed or eliminated, sedimentation increases. In addition, dams increase
sedimentation by mitigating spring freshets (Grandmaison et al. 2004). Dams can also
produce scouring flows downstream contributing to unnaturally high bank erosion. They
can interfere with the natural variation in the magnitude, frequency, timing, and
variability in flows.
12
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Eastern Sand Darter requires habitat with predominantly sand substrate. These are
usually depositional areas (Daniels 1989, Holm and Mandrak 1996). A specific or
narrow flow regime may be required to maintain sand but not silt in these depositional
areas. The loss of natural channels and flow regimes may have a large impact on
Eastern Sand Darter (Dextrase et al. 2003).
Shoreline modifications: In lakes Erie and St. Clair, Eastern Sand Darter has been
collected from nearshore habitats such as wave-protected sandy beaches, sandy
shores and shallow bays (van Meter and Trautman 1970, Thomas and Haas 2004).
Shoreline hardening has affected natural erosion processes and, thereby, altered
nearshore sediment transport (Edsall and Charlton 1997). Disruption of sediment
transport and deposition processes may reduce the availability of nearshore habitats
with suitable sand habitat. Dredging of river mouths that drain into Lake St. Clair has
the potential to directly alter habitat, increase turbidity, and trap individuals in the
dredgate.
The shoreline of Lake St. Clair has been substantially altered, mainly through the
installation shorewalls, offshore breakwalls, groynes, jetties, docks, and marinas (Reid
and Mandrak 2008). Those areas that have not been hardened or filled have been
dredged for human use (EERT 2008).
In riverine systems, shoreline modifications are typically bank hardening, channel
realignments, agricultural drain creation and maintenance, and the installation of docks
and marinas. Shore erosion combined with agricultural fields (e.g., ploughed land) or
from tile drainage transports fine particles to streams, which accumulate on river/stream
bottoms. Furthermore, the channelization of streams changes the physical processes,
which can alter the formation of sandbars that are often associated with the occurrence
of Eastern Sand Darter (FAPAQ 2002, Gaudreau 2005).
As discussed in altered flow regimes above, all of these types of activities (such as the
presence of a dam and impoundment, water-taking for agricultural or urban purposes,
construction of tile drains, or channel modifications) have the potential to alter flow
regimes and natural channel processes, which may have a substantial impact on
Eastern Sand Darter (Dextrase et al. 2003).
Exotic species and disease: Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus), an exotic
species, can cause considerable harm in North American aquatic ecosystems. Since its
discovery in the St. Clair River in 1990, this species has quickly colonized the Great
Lakes basin (Bernatchez and Giroux 2000, Poos et al. 2010). The Round Goby spawns
several times throughout the summer and is tolerant of polluted waters; these
characteristics may give it a competitive edge over native species. This is a benthic
species that, once established, could have a direct impact on darter species
(Bernatchez and Giroux 2000) such as the Eastern Sand Darter.
The ranges of the Eastern Sand Darter and Round Goby overlap in Lake St. Clair (since
1993) and the lower Thames River, Sydenham River, Big Creek and Lake Erie (since
13
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
1996). Additionally, Round Goby have recently colonized the Grand River system.
Since its introduction into the lower Great Lakes, the Round Goby has been implicated
in the declines of native benthic fish species such as: Logperch (Percina caprodes) and
Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdii) populations in the St. Clair River (French and Jude
2001); Johnny Darter (Etheostoma nigrum), Logperch, and Trout-Perch (Percopsis
omiscomaycus) in Lake St. Clair (Thomas and Haas 2004); and, Channel Darter (P.
copelandi), Fantail Darter (E. flabellare), Greenside Darter (E. blennioides), Johnny
Darter, and Logperch in the Bass Islands of western Lake Erie (Baker 2005).
Preliminary evidence from the lower Grand River notes a negative relationship between
the abundances of Round Goby and Eastern Sand Darter based on one year of data.
(A. Dextrase, OMNR, unpublished data). Potential causes of declines of native species
include Round Goby predation on eggs and juveniles, competition for food and habitat,
and interference competition for nests (French and Jude 2001, Janssen and Jude 2001,
Poos et al. 2010).
Round Goby has been caught in all Eastern Sand Darter river systems in Ontario (A.
Dextrase, OMNR pers. comm., 2010). The full impacts of the introduction of Round
Goby in Eastern Sand Darter locations may not be determined for years as Round Goby
populations are still actively colonizing these river systems.
Incidental harvest: The use of Eastern Sand Darter as a baitfish is illegal in Ontario
(OMNR 2010a). Although Eastern Sand Darter is not a targeted baitfish, incidental
harvest may occur due to co-occurrences (i.e., distributional overlap) between Eastern
Sand Darter and some targeted bait species (e.g., Common Shiner [Luxilus cornutus],
Creek Chub [Semotilus atromaculatus], White Sucker [Catostomus commersonii]).
Although baitfish harvest may theoretically occur from a variety of riverine and Great
Lakes nearshore localities that may support Eastern Sand Darter, these specific
localities of Eastern Sand Darter occurrences are not preferentially harvested. An
intensive sampling program of 68 retail tanks and baitfish purchases, examining 16 886
fishes, did not find any Eastern Sand Darter (A. Drake, University of Toronto, pers
comm. 2010). This does not mean that they are not caught but that they are not being
sold in the commercial harvest.
Expert opinion (Bouvier and Mandrak 2010) maintains that baitfish harvesting is an
activity with minimal impact on Eastern Sand Darter populations and is an activity that
may be permitted (see Section 2.8 Activities permitted by the recovery strategy).
1.6
Actions already completed or underway
Surveys: A summary of surveys conducted within the range of Eastern Sand Darter in
recent years is provided in Table 4.
14
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Table 4. Summary of recent Eastern Sand Darter surveys in Ontario (since 1997).
Recent surveys 4
Waterbody
•
Targeted and non-targeted sampling by DFO, OMNR, and Ausable
Bayfield Conservation Authority using seine, backpack electrofisher,
and boat electrofisher (2002).
•
Targeted and non-targeted sampling by DFO, OMNR, Royal Ontario
Museum (ROM), and University of Guelph, using seine and boat
electrofisher (1997, 2002, 2008).
•
Targeted and non-targeted sampling by DFO, OMNR, and University of
Guelph using seine (2002 – 04, 2008).
•
Targeted sampling by DFO and OMNR using seine (2004).
•
Targeted and non-targeted sampling by DFO, OMNR, ROM, and
University of Guelph using seine, backpack and boat electrofisher
(1997 - 99, 2002 – 04, 2009).
•
Targeted and non-targeted sampling by DFO, OMNR, ROM, and Trent
University using seine, backpack electrofisher, boat electrofisher, and
trawl (1997, 1999 – 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 – 10).
•
Targeted and non-targeted sampling by DFO, University of Waterloo,
and Trent University using seine and trawl (1997 – 98, 2003 – 09).
•
Non-targeted sampling by DFO, OMNR, and Parks Canada Agency
(PCA) (Long Point Bay, Rondeau Bay, and Point Pelee) using seine
and trawl (1997 – 2008).
•
Non-targeted sampling by DFO, OMNR, and Michigan Department of
Natural Resources using seine and trawl (1997 – 2001, 2005, 2007,
2008).
Ausable River
Catfish Creek
Big Otter Creek
Big Creek
Sydenham River
Grand River
Thames River
Lake Erie
Lake St. Clair
Aquatic ecosystem-based recovery strategies: The following aquatic ecosystembased recovery strategies include the Eastern Sand Darter and are currently being
implemented by their respective recovery teams. Each recovery team is co-chaired by
DFO and a conservation authority, and receives support from a diverse partnership of
agencies and individuals. Recovery activities implemented by these teams include
active stewardship and outreach/awareness programs to reduce identified threats; for
further details on specific actions currently underway, please refer to the approaches
identified in Table 5. Funding for these actions is supported by Ontario’s Species at
Risk Stewardship Fund and the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program
(HSP) for species at risk. Additionally, research requirements for species at risk
identified in recovery strategies are funded, in part, by the federal Interdepartmental
Recovery Fund (IRF). Note: Although these recovery strategies are supported by DFO,
they are not formally endorsed as recovery strategies under SARA.
4
Non-targeted sampling includes, but is not limited to, general species at risk sampling and monitoring,
fish community surveys, and index netting programs.
15
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Sydenham River ecosystem recovery strategy:
The primary objective of the Sydenham River ecosystem recovery strategy is to “sustain
and enhance the native aquatic communities of the Sydenham River through an
ecosystem approach that focuses on species at risk” (Dextrase et al. 2003). The
recovery strategy focuses on the 16 aquatic species at risk within the basin, including
the Eastern Sand Darter.
Thames River ecosystem recovery strategy:
The goal of the Thames River Recovery Team (TRRT) is to develop “a recovery plan
that improves the status of all aquatic species at risk in the Thames River through an
ecosystem approach that sustains and enhances all native aquatic communities” (TRRT
2004). The Eastern Sand Darter is one of 25 aquatic species at risk included in this
strategy.
Grand River fish species at risk recovery strategy:
The goal of Grand River Fish Species at Risk Recovery Team is to “conserve and
enhance the native fish community using sound science, community involvement and
habitat improvement measures” (Portt et al. 2007). Included in this strategy are
recovery initiatives for the Eastern Sand Darter and five other fish species at risk.
Ausable River ecosystem recovery strategy:
The long-term goal of the Ausable River ecosystem recovery strategy is “to sustain a
healthy native aquatic community in the Ausable River through an ecosystem approach
that focuses on the recovery of species at risk” (ARRT 2005). The ARRT has
developed a recovery strategy for the 14 aquatic species at risk in the Ausable River
basin, including the Eastern Sand Darter.
Essex-Erie recovery strategy:
The goal of the Essex-Erie recovery strategy is “to maintain and restore ecosystem
quality and function in the Essex-Erie region to support viable populations of fish
species at risk, across their current and former range” (EERT 2008). Included in this
strategy are recovery initiatives for the Eastern Sand Darter and 17 other fish species at
risk.
Research: University graduate students (University of Waterloo and Trent University)
are researching life-history characteristics and conducting population and habitat
modeling of southwestern Ontario Eastern Sand Darter populations (2005-present).
Great Lakes outreach program: The Toronto Zoo has included the Eastern Sand
Darter as part of its awareness and curriculum-based education Great Lakes Outreach
Program.
1.7
Knowledge gaps
In Canada, the Eastern Sand Darter has never been thoroughly studied. The few
recent studies on Eastern Sand Darter in Ontario (Drake et al. 2008, Finch 2009, A.
16
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Dextrase, OMNR, unpublished data) have provided some answers, but also raised
additional questions. Knowledge gaps concerning this species can be attributed to its
scarcity, small size, benthic and burrowing lifestyle as well as its translucency, which
make the Eastern Sand Darter rarely seen or caught.
Therefore, knowledge acquisition on the biology (clutch size and fecundity), behaviour,
adaptability as well as the species’ population dynamics and abundance in Canada is
critical to implement recovery measures. Additional baseline data regarding habitat
needs (tolerance to temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and pollution), distribution, and
threats (including severity of threats) to the species’ survival will be necessary to
examine and monitor Eastern Sand Darter population trends.
2.
RECOVERY
2.1
Recovery feasibility
The recovery of the Eastern Sand Darter is considered to be both biologically and
technically feasible. The following feasibility criteria 5 have been met for the species:
1. Are individuals capable of reproduction currently available to improve the population
growth rate or population abundance?
Yes. While successful spawning requires specific habitat conditions, the species’
continued presence in a number of Ontario watersheds, as well as the presence of
multiple year-classes, indicates that reproduction is occurring. Due to the relatively
low fecundity of Eastern Sand Darter, a long time frame may be required for
populations to recover or re-establish (Holm and Mandrak 1996). However, due to
the short generation time (almost annual) as well as the protracted spawning period,
the potential for a relatively quick recovery exists if juvenile survival is high.
2. Is sufficient suitable habitat available to support the species or could it be made
available through habitat management or restoration?
Yes. Suitable habitat does occur for this species. However, sustaining this species
in the long-term could not be ensured until pressures on its habitat are abated
(COSEWIC 2000, Gaudreau 2005, NatureServe 2012). Better water quality and
existing habitat management (through stewardship and Best Management Practices
[BMPs]) could improve and increase appropriate habitats. In addition, the Eastern
Sand Darter could have the opportunity of repopulating a portion of a stream
following the restoration of silted substrates with sand substrates (Gaudreau 2005).
3. Can significant threats to the species or its habitat be avoided or mitigated through
recovery actions?
5
Draft Policy on the Feasibility of Recovery, Species at Risk Act Policy. January 2005.
17
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Yes, in some areas. Significant threats to Eastern Sand Darter habitat, such as
increased siltation and turbidity, can be addressed through recovery actions.
Stewardship and implementation of BMPs would mitigate these threats. Basin-wide
efforts to reduce siltation and sediment input into areas of Eastern Sand Darter
occurrence, due to overland, bank and bed erosion, drainage tiles and additional
sources, will be necessary to significantly improve water quality, and reduce human
pressure on the species and its habitats (Dextrase et al. 2003, ARRT 2005).
4. Do the necessary recovery techniques exist and are they demonstrated to be
effective?
Yes. BMPs and stewardship activities are available to improve water quality in lakes
and rivers. Water quality improvements associated with a decreased silt load
benefited Eastern Sand Darter populations in Vermont and New York (Daniels
1993).
Repatriations may be feasible through captive rearing or adult transfers. Although
there are no published studies on the husbandry of Eastern Sand Darter (ARRT
2005), captive rearing and translocations have been used in the southeastern U.S.
towards the recovery of other endangered darter species (Shute et al. 2005). For
example, populations of imperilled species such as the Snail Darter (P. tanasi) and
Fringed Darter (E. crossopterum) have been established through adult transfers
(Etnier and Starnes 1993, Poly 2003). However, these darter species did not
include any in the Ammocrypta genus. Several populations of Eastern Sand Darter
in the U.S. and Canada (e.g., Thames River) are stable, and genetic analyses would
determine their appropriateness as sources for repatriations. A plan will need to be
developed for repatriation initiatives, should they be deemed feasible and
appropriate.
The above criteria indicate that recovery is biologically and technically feasible for
Ontario populations. The level of effort required for the recovery of the Sydenham,
Thames and Grand river populations would be moderate due to a focus on habitat
restoration and protection (Dextrase et al. 2003). Where the Eastern Sand Darter has
been extirpated from systems in Ontario, which may be the case in three river systems,
the level of effort required for population recovery would be high, as it would entail both
habitat restoration and repatriation (ARRT 2005). Management priorities should be
given to high quality habitat areas currently supporting Eastern Sand Darter
populations.
2.2
Recovery goal
The long-term goal (>20 years) of this recovery strategy is to maintain self-sustaining,
extant populations and to restore self-sustaining populations to formerly occupied
habitats where feasible. In some locations, permanent changes in the fish community,
as a result of the establishment of exotic species, may impact the feasibility of reestablishing Eastern Sand Darter populations.
18
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2.3
2012
Population and distribution objectives(s)
COSEWIC assessed the Eastern Sand Darter as Threatened in 2000 and reassessed it
as the same status in 2009, in part, because of its small area of occupancy, number of
locations, and the continuing decline in habitat quality. The Eastern Sand Darter is
considered extant at six locations in Ontario, unknown at two locations, and extirpated
from three locations (Bouvier and Mandrak 2010). Currently, the total number of
confirmed Eastern Sand Darter locations, both extant and extirpated, is 11.
An important factor to consider when determining population and distribution objectives
is the number of populations that may be at a given location, as it is possible that a
location may contain more than one discrete population. In this context, location does
not refer to the locality of the discrete population, but rather a geographically or
ecologically distinct area in which a single threatening event can rapidly affect all
individuals of this species present (COSEWIC 2011).
To recover the species to a level lower than Threatened under COSEWIC criteria, a
minimum of 11 extant locations with at least one self-sustaining population are required.
Where present, multiple populations at a single location should be maintained. At
present, the number of populations present at each Eastern Sand Darter location in
Canada is unknown and further research is required to investigate this.
The population and distribution objective for Eastern Sand Darter is to ensure the
survival of self-sustaining population(s) at the six extant locations (Sydenham River,
Thames River, Lake St. Clair, Big Creek, Grand River, Lake Erie [Long Point Bay]) and
restore self-sustaining population(s) at the following locations: Ausable River, Lake Erie
(Rondeau Bay and Pelee Island), Catfish Creek, and Big Otter Creek, where feasible.
Results from the recovery potential modelling conducted by Finch et al. (2011),
indicated that the estimated minimum viable population size (MVP) for Eastern Sand
Darter is 52 822 adults, given a 10% chance of a catastrophic event occurring per
generation. However, the implementation of such a target is difficult without also having
information on population(s) size, trends, and spatial distribution, as well as habitat
quality; this information is mostly lacking for the majority of Eastern Sand Darter
locations in Ontario. Further research is required to validate the model results and to
obtain the aforementioned information. More quantifiable objectives relating to MVP will
be developed once abundance information can be obtained. This will also inform the
refinement of the recovery goal.
2.4
Recovery objectives
Short-term recovery objectives (5 – 10 years)
In support of the long-term goal, the following short-term recovery objectives will be
addressed over the next 5 -10 years:
i. Refine population and distribution objectives;
ii. Ensure the protection of critical habitat;
19
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
iii.
iv.
v.
Determine long-term population and habitat trends;
Evaluate and minimize threats to the species and its habitat;
Investigate the feasibility of population supplementation or repatriation for
populations that may be extirpated or reduced;
Enhance efficiency of recovery efforts through coordination with aquatic and
terrestrial ecosystem recovery teams and other relevant or complementary
groups/initiatives; and,
Improve overall awareness of the Eastern Sand Darter and the role of healthy
aquatic ecosystems, and their importance to humans.
vi.
vii.
2.5
2012
Approaches recommended to meet recovery objectives
2.5.1 Recovery planning
Recovery approaches have been organized into three categories: ‘Research and
Monitoring’ (Table 5), ‘Management and Habitat Protection’ (Table 7), and ‘Stewardship,
Outreach and Education’ (Table 8). Table 6 identifies the survey needs for Eastern
Sand Darter in specific waterbodies in Ontario as part of a strategy identified under the
Research and Monitoring category. Although approaches have been prioritized, all are
important to meet recovery goals and objectives. A narrative has been included where
deemed appropriate.
Objective
addressed
Threats
addressed
High
Broad strategy
to address
threats
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objective(s)
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
ii
All
R1. Habitat
requirements
Refine knowledge of
seasonal habitat
requirements for all life
stages especially juvenile.
Will allow for refinement
of critical habitat. Will
assist with the
development of a habitat
model.
i, ii
All
R2. Habitat
surveys and
mapping
Evaluate and map the
distribution, quantity and
quality of habitat in the
vicinity of known
populations.
Will allow for refinement
of critical habitat.
High
Priority
Table 5. Recovery approaches for Eastern Sand Darter in Ontario – research and
monitoring.
20
Objective
addressed
Priority
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
All
High
i, iii,
v
Threats
addressed
Broad strategy
to address
threats
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objective(s)
R3. Background
surveys and
monitoring –
extant,
historic and
potential new
locations
Develop a long-term
monitoring program that
includes standardized
sampling protocol to
monitor for trends over
time in distribution and
abundance for all life
stages.
2012
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
Will determine
presence/absence,
health, range, abundance
and population
demographics, and
contribute to the
refinement of critical
habitat.
Incorporate findings into a
routine population
monitoring program.
All habitat
related threats
(barriers to
movement,
altered flow
regimes,
shoreline
modifications)
R4. Threat
clarification habitat
Investigate and evaluate
the significance of habitat
threat factors that may be
impacting extant
populations. Take steps
to mitigate immediate
threats identified.
Will determine the
severity of specific threats
to individual populations
and will direct stewardship
activities to alleviate their
impacts.
iv
Exotic species
R5. Threat
clarification –
exotic species
Investigate the
mechanisms of impact of
Round Goby on Eastern
Sand Darter. Monitor
distribution of Round
Goby in areas of Eastern
Sand Darter populations.
Will identify the degree to
which Round Goby may
impact Eastern Sand
Darter.
v
All
R6. Captive
rearing and
repatriations
Where repatriations are
deemed appropriate for
restoring populations
(historical or degraded),
develop a repatriation
plan.
Determine the feasibility
and appropriateness of
repatriations in areas of
suitable habitat.
v
All
R7. Conservation
genetics
Examine the degree of
genetic variation and
isolation within (i.e., small
populations and
inbreeding concerns) and
among populations across
its North American range.
Will help to distinguish
populations and
determine if there is more
than one population at a
location. Will contribute
necessary info should
population enhancement
through repatriations or
captive rearing be
required
Low
Moderate
High
High
iv
21
Objective
addressed
Priority
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
All
Low
i
Threats
addressed
Broad strategy
to address
threats
R8. Habitat
modelling
2012
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objective(s)
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
Develop a predictive
habitat model to identify
potential Eastern Sand
Darter sites and
significant habitat areas.
Will use model to further
refine critical habitat and
identify potential Eastern
Sand Darter sites for
additional survey
investigation.
Background surveys and monitoring (R3)
The Eastern Sand Darter is known from only a few locations in watersheds throughout
its range. In some cases, such as in the Ausable River, only historical records exist.
This species may be somewhat more widely distributed than currently known, due to its
cryptic burrowing behaviour (Portt et al. 2007). Survey needs are provided in Table 6.
In the vicinity of current and historical occurrence, surveys are required to:
• Confirm the spatial distribution of extant populations;
• Confirm the loss of historical populations;
• Identify suitable habitat (distribution, quantity and quality of sandy patches);
• Provide an index of abundance and trend over time data; and,
• Detect the presence of Round Goby.
Table 6. Survey needs for Eastern Sand Darter in specific waterbodies in Ontario.
Ontario watershed
Survey needs
Ausable River
Catfish Creek
To determine if populations are extant.
Big Otter Creek
Grand River
To determine if Wilkes dam is a barrier to fish
passage and if populations are present between
Brantford and Paris.
Thames River
Routine monitoring of population.
Sydenham River
Lake St. Clair
To determine the extent and status of the
populations.
Lake Erie
Big Creek
It is recommended that riverine populations be surveyed using a variety of methods
during periods of low flow (e.g., summer and early fall). Field surveys should target
shallow habitats with sand and/or mixed sand/gravel bed material.
22
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Captive rearing and repatriation (R6)
Repatriation efforts need to consider the following:
i)
Many of the extirpations are presumed to be the result of habitat degradation.
The success of repatriations will depend on an understanding of the species’
habitat needs, and on a sufficient quantity of suitable habitat being available
at the repatriation site. Surveys need to be undertaken to characterize
current habitat conditions and identify appropriate actions to improve
degraded habitats. If habitat requirements are poorly understood, then
studies of habitat use will need to be undertaken;
ii)
Repatriations should not be considered until the factors for extirpation are
understood and addressed or there is suitable habitat present to support a
viable population;
iii)
Source populations to support repatriations need to be identified. Ideally,
source populations possess a high level of genetic diversity and genetic
composition developed under similar historic conditions as the repatriation
site. Genetic comparisons with populations from other parts of its North
American range will determine the appropriateness of augmentation and
selecting source populations when deemed necessary. Where possible,
source populations within the same watershed are preferred;
iv)
Removal of individuals from source populations should not negatively affect
the status of these populations;
v)
The preferred method of introduction (i.e., adult transfer versus captive
reared) needs to be determined. If captive rearing is the preferred option,
propagation and rearing methods and an appropriate rearing facility will need
to be identified;
vi)
To successfully establish self-sustaining populations and preserve the genetic
composition, the number of individuals, appropriate life stages, and the
frequency and duration of supplemental stockings needs to be determined.
Population Viability Analysis (PVA) or other population modeling approaches
may help to provide this information. However, proper application of PVA
tools may require improved information on the life history and demographics
of the species targeted for repatriation;
vii)
Monitoring is required to ensure that newly established populations are viable,
that the stocking rate is appropriate and habitat conditions continue to be
suitable; and,
viii)
All proposed repatriations associated with this strategy will involve the
preparation of a repatriation plan that will address the logistic and ecological
aspects discussed above, as well as stakeholder issues.
Repatriations should follow the American Fisheries Society Guidelines for Introductions
of Threatened and Endangered Fishes and the National Code on Introductions and
Transfers or Aquatic Organisms.
23
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Objective
addressed
Threats
addressed
Broad strategy to
address threats
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objective(s)
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
vi,
vii
All
M1. Coordination
with other
recovery teams
and relevant
organizations
Work with relevant
organizations (e.g.,
conservation authorities,
OMNR), First Nations,
and ecosystem/single
species recovery teams to
share knowledge, and
implement recovery
actions.
Will combine resources,
ensure information
dissemination, help to
prioritize most urgent
actions across the
species’ range and allow
for a coordinated
approach to recovery.
iii,
iv
All habitat
threats
M2. Habitat
management
and policy
Ensure planning and
management agencies,
including local First
Nations, recognize the
importance of fluvial and
long-shore processes and
sources of sand bedload
in the maintenance of
Eastern Sand Darter
habitats.
Will result in protection of
important habitat from
development activities.
High
High
Priority
Table 7. Recovery approaches for Eastern Sand Darter in Ontario – management and
habitat protection.
For example: consistent
plan for reducing
shoreline hardening or
removal of obsolete
dams.
Ensure that flow
requirements of the
Eastern Sand Darter are
considered in the
management of water
supply and flow regimes.
All threats
M3. Assessment of
watershedscale stressors
In cooperation with
relevant ecosystem
recovery teams and First
Nations, address
watershed-scale stressors
to populations and their
habitat.
Will identify areas in
which cumulative effects
of threats may be
significant
vi,
vii
Exotics
M4. Exotic species
management
plan
Develop a management
plan addressing potential
risks and proposed
actions in response to the
arrival or establishment of
exotic species, such as
the Round Goby.
Will ensure timely
response should this
threat fully materialize.
High
High
vi
24
Objective
addressed
Priority
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
Habitat
threats
Broad strategy to
address threats
M5. Municipal
planning
Moderate
vi,
vii
Threats
addressed
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objective(s)
Encourage municipalities
and First Nations to
include the concerns
about Eastern Sand
Darter habitat
conservation in the
municipal planning
documents.
2012
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
Will prevent further
impairment of water
quality and quantity.
Objective
addressed
Priority
Table 8. Recovery approaches for Eastern Sand Darter in Ontario – stewardship and
outreach and education.
Broad strategy to
address threats
High
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objective(s)
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
All
S1. Stewardship awareness
Encourage and
strengthen stewardship
efforts with managers,
stakeholders, First
Nations and citizens
aimed at protecting
Eastern Sand Darter
habitats.
Will address local
concerns about
implications of recovery of
Eastern Sand Darter.
Turbidity and
sediment
loading,
contaminants
and toxic
substances,
nutrient
loading,
shoreline
modifications
S2. Stewardship –
implementation
of BMP’s
Work with landowners
and First Nations to
implement BMPs in areas
that will provide the most
benefit. Encourage the
completion and
implementation of
Environmental Farm
Plans and Nutrient
Management Plans
Will minimize threats from
soil erosion, stream
sedimentation and
nutrient and chemical
contamination.
High
v
Threat
addressed
25
Objective
addressed
Priority
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
v,
vi
Threat
addressed
all
Broad strategy to
address threats
S3. Communication
plan 6
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objective(s)
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
Develop a communication
and awareness-raising
plan that identifies
partners and target
audiences.
Will provide a strategic
basis for improving public
awareness of species at
risk and promote ways in
which community and
public involvement can be
most effectively solicited
fro the recovery of
Eastern Sand Darter.
Raise the awareness and
develop information
products, educational and
outreach opportunities,
stewardship resources
and specific BMP’s that
will assist with the
recovery of the Eastern
Sand Darter.
High
Moderate
Moderate
Moderate
2012
v,
vi
all
S4. Coordination
with other
groups6
Collaborate with relevant
groups, including First
Nations groups and
recovery teams to
address recovery actions
to benefit Eastern Sand
Darter
Will combine efficiencies
in addressing common
recovery actions, and
ensure information is
disseminated in a timely
cooperative fashion.
v,
vi
Exotic
species and
disease
S5. Exotic species awareness
Increase public
awareness of the impacts
of invasive species on the
natural ecosystem,
encourage the use of the
Ontario invasive species
reporting system.
Will reduce the transport
and release of exotics and
prevent their
establishment in new
areas.
All
S6. Stewardshipfinancial
assistance/
incentives6
Facilitate access to
funding sources for
landowner and local
community groups
engaged in stewardship
activities.
Will facilitate the
implementation of
recovery efforts. BMP’s
associated with water
quality improvements,
sediment load reduction,
etc.
Stewardship and habitat initiatives (S1)
Basin-wide efforts to improve habitat quality will be required in all watersheds. This
represents an important opportunity to engage landowners, local communities, First
Nations, and stewardship councils on the issues of Eastern Sand Darter recovery,
ecosystem and environmental health, clean water protection, nutrient management,
BMPs, stewardship projects, and associated financial incentives. To accomplish this,
6
Approaches currently being implemented by one or more ecosystem-based recovery programs.
26
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
the members of the Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery Team (OFFRT) will work closely
with the various aquatic ecosystem recovery teams, many of which have already
established stewardship liaisons and activities that will benefit the Eastern Sand Darter.
Implementation of BMPs (S2)
The members of the OFFRT, together with watershed Recovery Implementation Groups
(RIGs) (for stewardship, awareness and community outreach), will work with
landowners, First Nations, and stewardship groups to implement BMPs. Establishing
riparian buffers reduces nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment inputs and
overland run-off. Restriction of livestock from watercourses, where feasible and
appropriate, leads to reductions in erosion and sediment and nutrient loadings. Nutrient
and manure management will reduce nitrogen and phosphorus inputs into adjacent
waterbodies, thereby, improving water quality for the Eastern Sand Darter and other
aquatic organisms. The RIGs can work with landowners to mitigate the impacts of tile
drainage, thereby, reducing sediment and nutrient inputs. No-till practices can reduce
soil erosion and improve soil structure while reducing sediment loads in adjacent
watercourses. Environmental Farm Plans prioritize BMP implementation at the level of
the individual farm and are sometimes a pre-requisite for funding programs.
Environmental Farm Plans are overseen by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement
Associations. For more information on BMPs see Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Best
Management Practices Series. The RIGs can work with Drainage Engineers to improve
upon and incorporate features beneficial to Eastern Sand Darter while providing for
drainage activities through an Engineer’s Report, which will allow these features to be
protected under the Drainage Act.
Coordination with other recovery teams (S4)
Many of the threats facing the Eastern Sand Darter are a result of habitat degradation
that affects numerous aquatic species. Multi-species ecosystem recovery strategies,
such as those for the Grand, Sydenham, and Thames rivers, and the Essex-Erie
watershed, have incorporated the requirements of the Eastern Sand Darter in their
basin-wide strategies. As well as species-specific considerations, these ecosystembased strategies employ basin-wide strategies to improve environmental conditions
such as water quality, benefiting the Eastern Sand Darter and other species. A
coordinated, cohesive approach between the OFFRT and multi-species recovery teams
that maximizes opportunities to share resources, information, and combine efficiencies
is recommended. The members of the OFFRT should also coordinate efforts with
recovery teams focused on the recovery of Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)
and Round Hickorynut.
2.6
Performance measures
The overall success of implementing the recommended recovery approaches will be evaluated
primarily through routine population (distribution and abundance) and habitat (quality and
quantity) surveys and monitoring. During the next five years, focus will be placed on completing
recovery actions identified as “high priority” for the Eastern Sand Darter. The recovery strategy
will be reported on in five years to evaluate the progress made toward population and
distribution objectives and will be reviewed within an adaptive management planning framework,
27
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
with input from ecosystem recovery teams. Performance measures to evaluate the recovery
process in meeting recovery objectives over the next five years are outlined in Table 9.
Table 9. Performance measures for evaluating the achievement of recovery objectives.
Recovery objectives
i)
Protect known populations and
habitats.
Performance indicators
•
•
Monitoring indicates that populations
remain extant at known sites
Implementation of management
measures in Table 7.
ii)
Determine the extent, abundance
and demographics of existing
populations.
•
Existing populations and historical sites
and potential habitats have been
sampled.
iii)
Determine the extent, abundance
and quality of existing habitat (sandy
patches) in areas of occurrence
through a focused sampling program.
•
Gained knowledge of currently
occupied and potential of historical
habitats.
iv)
Identify key habitat requirements to
refine critical habitat and implement
strategies to protect known habitat.
•
Complete description of Eastern Sand
Darter critical habitat.
v)
Establish a long-term population and
habitat monitoring program.
•
Monitoring program has been
developed.
vi)
Clarify threats and identify remedial
actions to reduce their effects.
•
Research has been conducted to
clarify number, extent, and severity of
threats to Eastern Sand Darter.
vii)
Examine the feasibility of
translocations, repatriations and
captive rearing.
•
Research has been conducted to
evaluate feasibility of translocations,
repatriations, and captive rearing.
viii)
Increase awareness of the
significance of this species and its
status as an aquatic species at risk
and indicator of ecosystem health.
•
Outreach program developed and
materials distributed.
ix)
Develop linkages among partners,
including watershed-based recovery
teams, interest groups, industry,
agencies, and landowners interested
in supporting the recovery of the
Eastern Sand Darter.
•
Formalized partnerships developed to
increase awareness and formulate
action plans towards recovery.
28
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2.7
2012
Critical habitat
2.7.1 General identification of the Eastern Sand Darter’s critical habitat
The identification of critical habitat for species that are listed as Threatened,
Endangered or Extirpated, on Schedule 1, is a requirement of SARA. Once identified,
SARA includes provisions to prevent the destruction of critical habitat. Critical habitat is
defined under Section 2(1) of SARA as:
“…the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife
species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the
recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species”. [s. 2(1)]
SARA defines habitat for aquatic species at risk as:
“… spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, migration and
any other areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in
order to carry out their life processes, or areas where aquatic species
formerly occurred and have the potential to be reintroduced.” [s. 2(1)]
Critical habitat has been identified to the extent possible, using the best information
currently available, for Eastern Sand Darter populations in Ontario. The critical habitat
identified in this recovery strategy describes the geospatial areas that contain the
habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of the species. The current areas
identified may be insufficient to achieve the population and distribution objectives for the
species. As such, a schedule of studies has been included to further refine the
description of critical habitat (in terms of its biophysical functions/features/attributes as
well as its spatial extent) to support its protection.
2.7.2 Information and methods used to identify critical habitat
Using the best available information, critical habitat has been identified using a
‘bounding box’ approach for the following areas where the species presently occurs:
Sydenham River, Thames River, Grand River, Big Creek, and Long Point Bay.
Additional areas of potential critical habitat within the Lake St. Clair/Walpole Island area
will be considered in collaboration with Walpole Island First Nation. Using this
approach, the ‘bounding box’ outlines areas in which the species is known to occur (i.e.,
areas where multiple adults and/or YOY have been captured). It is further refined
through the use of essential functions, features, and attributes for each life stage of the
Eastern Sand Darter to identify patches of critical habitat within the ‘bounding box’. Life
stage habitat information was summarized in chart form using available data and
studies referred to in Section 1.4.1 (Habitat and biological needs). The ‘bounding box’
approach was the most appropriate, given the limited information available for the
species and the lack of detailed habitat mapping for these areas. Where habitat
information was available (e.g., bathymetry data), it was used to inform the identification
of critical habitat.
29
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
For all river locations, critical habitat was identified based on a ‘bounding box’ approach
and further refined with an ecological classification system, the Aquatic Landscape
Inventory System (ALIS version 1) (Stanfield and Kuyvenhoven 2005). ALIS was
developed by the OMNR to define stream segments based on a number of unique
characteristics found only within those valley segments. Each valley segment is defined
by a collection of landscape variables that are believed to have a controlling effect on
the biotic and physical processes within the catchments. Therefore, if a population has
been found in one part of the ecological classification, there is no reason to believe that
it would not be found in other spatially contiguous areas of the same valley segment.
Critical habitat for the Eastern Sand Darter was therefore identified as the reach of
rivers that includes all contiguous ALIS segments from the uppermost stream segment
with the species present to the lowermost stream segment with the species present.
For lake locations, critical habitat is currently identified, based on a ‘bounding box’
approach, and refined using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
bathymetry data.
Any additional detail on the specific methods used to identify critical habitat is provided
in the individual critical habitat descriptions (below), when relevant.
Sydenham River: Sampling data in the river was taken from the DFO database for the
period from 1927 to 2009. There were only 43 individuals caught in the last 10 years
(Bouvier and Mandrak 2010).
Thames River: Sampling data in the river was taken from the DFO database for the
period from 1923 to 2009. There has been extensive targeted sampling for Eastern
Sand Darter in the river. This population is considered the largest population of Eastern
Sand Darter in Canada with more than 5000 individuals caught in the last 10 years
(Bouvier and Mandrak 2010).
Grand River: The first capture of Eastern Sand Darter in the Grand River was in 1987.
Since then there have been more than 735 individuals caught through targeted
sampling (Bouvier and Mandrak 2010).
Big Creek (Norfolk County): Eastern Sand Darter were found in 1923 and 1955 (Holm
and Mandrak 1996, COSEWIC 2009). This population was thought to be extirpated, but
in 2008 three individuals were captured (A. Dextrase, OMNR, unpublished data, DFO,
unpublished data).
Long Point Bay (Lake Erie): The Eastern Sand Darter has been captured from Inner
Long Point Bay at four locations. Index netting trawls by OMNR since 1972 captured
Eastern Sand Darter every year between 1979 and 1987 except 1983 (Holm and
Mandrak 1996). These locations overlap with the limited sand substrate, as much of the
bay has aquatic vegetation. Using available sampling data, critical habitat has currently
been identified based on a ‘bounding box’ approach, and refined using NOAA
bathymetry data.
30
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
2.7.3 Identification of critical habitat: biophysical functions, features and their
attributes
There is limited information on the habitat needs for the various life stages of the
Eastern Sand Darter. Table 10 summarizes available knowledge on the essential
functions, features and attributes for each life stage. Refer to Section 1.4.1 (Habitat and
biological needs) for additional information and full references. Note that not all
attributes in Table 10 must be present for a feature to be identified as critical habitat. If
the features as described in Table 10 are present and capable of supporting the
associated function(s), the feature is considered critical habitat for the species, even
though some of the associated attributes might be outside of the range indicated in the
table.
Table 10. Essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for each life
stage of the Eastern Sand Darter 7 .
Life
stage
Habitat
requirement
(function)
Feature(s)
Attribute(s)
Spawn to
larvae
(< 18
mm TL)
• Spawning
(likely
occurs in
June and
July in
Ontario)
• Nursery
• Reaches of
streams and
rivers with sand
substrate
• Sandy shoals in
lakes
• Moderate current
• Mix of sand and gravel (e.g., 0.06 to 64
mm)
• Well oxygenated substrates
• Little to no aquatic vegetation
• Warm water temperatures (spawning in
Ontario generally thought to occur from
20.5 to 25.5°C)
Juveniles
(> 18
mm TL)
• Feeding
• Cover
(fossorial
behaviour)
• Reaches of
streams and
rivers with sand
substrate
• Sandy shoals,
bars and beaches
• Shallow pools and
bays in lakes
• Recently transformed juveniles have
been caught in the same habitat as
adults.
Adult
(ages
one
[sexual
maturity]
to three
years
old)
• Feeding
• Cover
(fossorial
behaviour)
• Reaches of
streams and
rivers with sand
substrates
• Sandy shoals,
bars and beaches
• Shallow pools and
bays in lakes
• Moderate current or wave action (e.g.,
depositional areas)
• Sand or gravel (e.g., 0.06 to 64 mm) with
minimal fines (< 0.06 mm)
• Little or no aquatic vegetation
7
Where known or supported by existing data.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Studies to further refine knowledge on the functions, features, and attributes for various
life stages of the Eastern Sand Darter are described in Section 2.7.5 (Schedule of
studies to identify critical habitat).
2.7.4 Identification of critical habitat: geospatial
Using the best available information, critical habitat has been identified for Eastern Sand
Darter populations in the following locations:
• Sydenham River;
• Thames River;
• Grand River;
• Big Creek (Norfolk County); and,
• Long Point Bay (Lake Erie).
In the future, with new information, additional areas could be identified and/or additional
information may be obtained to allow further clarification about the functional
descriptions. Areas of critical habitat identified at some locations may overlap with
critical habitat identified for other co-occurring species at risk; however, the specific
habitat requirements within these areas may vary by species.
The areas delineated on the following maps (Figures 4-8) represent the area within
which critical habitat is found for the above-mentioned populations. Using the ‘bounding
box’ approach, critical habitat is not comprised of all areas within the identified
boundaries, but only those areas where the biophysical features/attributes are present
that are capable of supporting one or more habitat functions (refer to Table 10). Note
that existing permanent anthropogenic features that may be present within the areas
delineated (e.g., marinas) are specifically excluded from the critical habitat description; it
is understood that maintenance or replacement of these features may be required at
times. Brief explanations for the areas identified as critical habitat are provided below.
Table 11 provides the geographic coordinates that situate the boundaries within which
critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter at the five locations; these points are
indicated on Figures 4-8.
Table 11. Coordinates locating the boundaries within which critical habitat is found for
the Eastern Sand Darter at five locations.
Coordinates locating areas of critical habitat
Location
Big Creek 8
Grand River8
Point 1 (NW)
42°40’19.570”N 9
80°31’43.828”W
43°11’57.347”N
80°21’52.463”W
Point 2 (NE)
42°35’39.772”N
80°28’56.167”W
42°55’43.385”N
79°40’46.810”W
Point 3 (SE)
Point 4 (SW)
8
Riverine habitats are delineated to the midpoint of channel of the uppermost stream segment and
lowermost stream segment (i.e., two points only).
9
All coordinates obtained using map datum NAD 83.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Coordinates locating areas of critical habitat
Location
Thames River8
Sydenham
River8
Long Point Bay
Point 1 (NW)
42°58’38.384”N
81°22’15.789”W
42°57’11.590”N
81°38’02.949”W
42°40’01.093”N
80°19’48.514”W
Point 2 (NE)
42°30’35.205”N
82°04’26.745”W
42°33’07.504”N
82°25’06.911”W
42°33’01.370”N
80°02’27.572”W
Point 3 (SE)
42°34’51.795”N
80°26’12.446”W
Point 4 (SW)
42°36’49.952”
N
80°27’23.015”
W
Sydenham River: The area within which critical habitat is found in the east branch of
the Sydenham River includes all contiguous ALIS segments from the uppermost stream
segment with the species present to the lowermost stream segment with the species
present. This represents a stretch of river approximately 155 km long from Strathroy
downstream to Walpole Island/Lake St. Clair. However, there may be limited suitable
habitat for Eastern Sand Darter downstream of Dawn Mills (Figure 4). The critical
habitat geospatial limit extends to the high water mark, which is defined as the usual or
average level to which a body of water rises at its highest point and remains for
sufficient time so as to change the characteristics of the land. In flowing waters (rivers,
streams), this refers to the active channel/bankfull, which is often the 1:2 year flood flow
return level and which plays an essential role in maintaining channel forming flows and
clean sand substrates.
33
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Figure 4. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in the Sydenham River.
34
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Thames River - The area within which critical habitat is found in the Thames River includes
all contiguous ALIS segments from the uppermost stream segment with the species present
to the lowermost stream segment with the species present. This represents a stretch of
river approximately 148 km long between Komoka and Kent Bridge (Figure 5). The critical
habitat geospatial limit extends to the high water mark, which is defined as the usual or
average level to which a body of water rises at its highest point and remains for sufficient
time so as to change the characteristics of the land. In flowing waters (rivers, streams), this
refers to the active channel/bankfull, which is often the 1:2 year flood flow return level and
which plays an essential role in maintaining channel forming flows and clean sand
substrates.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Figure 5. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in the Thames River.
36
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Grand River - The area within which critical habitat is found in the Grand River includes
all contiguous ALIS segments from the uppermost stream segment with the species
present to the lowermost stream segment with the species present. This represents a
stretch of river approximately 107 km long from Paris downstream to upstream of
Dunnville (Figure 6). The critical habitat geospatial limit extends to the high water mark,
which is defined as the usual or average level to which a body of water rises at its
highest point and remains for sufficient time so as to change the characteristics of the
land. In flowing waters (rivers, streams), this refers to the active channel/bankfull, which
is often the 1:2 year flood flow return level and which plays an essential role in
maintaining channel forming flows and clean sand substrates.
37
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Figure 6. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in the Grand River.
38
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Big Creek (Norfolk County) - The area within which critical habitat is found in Big
Creek includes all contiguous ALIS segments from the uppermost stream segment with
the species present to the lowermost stream segment with the species present. This
represents a stretch of river approximately 17 km long from upstream of Spring Arbour,
downstream to the start of the wetland at Big Creek National Wildlife Area (Figure 7).
The critical habitat geospatial limit extends to the high water mark, which is defined as
the usual or average level to which a body of water rises at its highest point and
remains for sufficient time so as to change the characteristics of the land. In flowing
waters (rivers, streams), this refers to the active channel/bankfull, which is often the 1:2
year flood flow return level and which plays an essential role in maintaining channel
forming flows and clean sand substrates.
.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Figure 7. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in Big Creek.
40
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Long Point Bay (Lake Erie) - The area within which critical habitat is found in Long
Point Bay includes the contiguous waters of the Inner Bay and the tip, from the shore
down to the 3 m contour (Figure 8). The 3 m contour was used as occupied habitats
were found only within this area. This represents a total area of approximately 167 km2.
Critical habitat extends up to the high water mark elevation for Lake Erie at 174.62 m
above sea level (International Great Lakes Datum 1985).
.
41
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Figure 8. Area within which critical habitat is found for the Eastern Sand Darter in Long Point Bay (Lake Erie).
42
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
These identifications of critical habitat ensure that currently occupied habitat within the
Sydenham, Thames, and Grand rivers, Big Creek (Norfolk County), and Long Point Bay
is protected, until such time as critical habitat for the species is further refined according
to the schedule of studies (Section 2.7.5 Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat).
The schedule of studies outlines activities necessary to refine the current critical habitat
descriptions at confirmed extant locations, but will also apply to new locations should
new locations with established populations be confirmed. Critical habitat descriptions
will be refined as additional information becomes available to support or inform the
population and distribution objectives.
2.7.4.1
Population viability
The minimum area for population viability (MAPV) for each life stage of the Eastern
Sand Darter was estimated for Canadian populations (Table 12). The MAPV is defined
as the amount of exclusive and suitable habitat required for a demographically
sustainable recovery target based on the concept of a MVP (Finch et al. 2011). The
estimated MVP for adult Eastern Sand Darter is 52 822, given a 10% chance of a
catastrophic event occurring per generation. The corresponding MAPV has been
estimated to be 0.037 km2 in rivers, and 0.213 km2 in lakes. For more information on
the MVP and MAPV and associated methodology refer to Finch et al. (2011).
The MAPV is a quantitative metric of critical habitat that can assist with the recovery
and management of species at risk (Finch et al. 2011). MAPV values are somewhat
conservative in that they represent the sum of habitat needs calculated for all life stages
of the Eastern Sand Darter; these numbers do not take into account the potential for
overlap in the habitat of the various life stages and may overestimate the area required
to support an MVP. However, since many of these populations occur in areas of
degraded habitat (MAPV assumes habitat quality is optimal), areas larger than the
MAPV may be required to support an MVP. In addition, for many populations, it is likely
that only a portion of the habitat within that identified as the area within which critical
habitat is found would meet the functional requirements of the species’ various life
stages.
Comparisons were made between the extent of critical habitat identified for each
population relative to the estimated MAPV (refer to Table 12). The critical habitats
identified inside the segments are the areas that meet the functional habitat
requirements outlined in Table 10. Consequently, the area data provided are only
cartographic estimations of the total watercourse segment and are not the actual area
of available critical habitat. Further studies will be required to assess the area of critical
habitat available on an annual basis, for each identified river segment. Future studies
may also help quantify the amount and quality of habitat that meets the functions,
features, attributes within geospatial areas for all populations. Such information, along
with the verification of the MAPV model, will allow greater certainty for the determination
of population viability. As such, the results in Table 12 are preliminary and should be
interpreted with caution.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Table 12. Comparison of the area within which critical habitat is found for each Eastern
Sand Darter population, relative to the estimated minimum area for population viability
(MAPV) 10 .
Area within which critical
habitat is found
Population 11
MAPV area
MAPV
achieved?
Sydenham River
4.9 km2 (154 km of river)
0.037 km2
Yes
Thames River
3.1 km2 (148 km of river)
0.037 km2
Yes
2
Yes
2
Grand River
2
11.9 km (107 km of river)
2
0.037 km
Big Creek
0.3 km (18 km of river)
0.037 km
Yes
Long Point Bay
167 km2
0.213 km2
Yes
2.7.5 Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat
This recovery strategy includes an identification of critical habitat to the extent possible,
based on the best available information. Further studies are required to refine critical
habitat identified for the Eastern Sand Darter to support the population and distribution
objectives for the species. The activities in Table 13 are not exhaustive and it is likely
that the process of investigating these actions will lead to the discovery of further
knowledge gaps that need to be addressed.
Table 13. Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat.
Description of activity
Rationale
Approximate
timeline
Conduct studies to
determine the habitat
requirements for all life
stages.
There is little known about YOY and
juvenile habitat requirements, and
spawning has never been observed in the
wild. Determining habitat requirements for
each life stage will ensure that all types of
critical habitat for this species will be
identified.
2011-2014
Survey and map habitat
quality and quantity within
historical and current sites,
as well as sites adjacent to
currently occupied habitat.
Strengthen confidence in data used to
determine if sites meet the criteria to
identify critical habitat; monitor current
sites for changes in habitat that may result
in changes to critical habitat identification;
surveying adjacent habitat ensures
accuracy of area of occurrence, on which
critical habitat is being partly defined.
2011-2014
10
The MAPV estimation is based on modeling approaches described above. This table is preliminary as
further studies are needed to quantify the amount and quality of habitat within the currently identified
critical habitat area.
11
Note that some locations may contain more than one population (e.g., some of the larger areas such as
Long Point Bay). In such cases, the MAPV would be applied to each individual population.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Approximate
timeline
Description of activity
Rationale
Conduct additional species
surveys to fill in distribution
gaps, and to aid in
determining population
connectivity.
Additional populations and corresponding
critical habitat may be required to meet the
population and distribution objectives.
Create a populationhabitat supply model for
each life stage.
Will aid in developing recovery targets and
determining the amount of critical habitat
required by each life stage to meet these
targets.
2014-2016
Based on information
gathered, review
population and distribution
goals. Determine amount
and configuration of critical
habitat required to achieve
goal if adequate
information exists.
Validate model.
Once the information above is gathered,
recovery targets should be reviewed to
ensure that they are still achievable and
logical. Determining the amount and
configuration of critical habitat based on
recovery targets will be required for the
action plan.
2014-2016
2011-2014
Activities identified in this schedule of studies will be carried out through collaboration
between DFO, relevant ecosystem recovery teams, and other relevant groups and land
managers.
2.7.6 Examples of activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat
The critical habitat for the Eastern Sand Darter will be legally protected through the
application of subsection 58(1) of SARA, which prohibits the destruction of any part of
the critical habitat of aquatic species listed as Endangered or Threatened, and any part
of the critical habitat of aquatic species listed as Extirpated if a recovery strategy has
recommended their reintroduction into the wild in Canada.
Activities that ultimately increase siltation/turbidity levels and/or result in the decrease of
water quality or cause direct habitat modification can negatively impact Eastern Sand
Darter habitat. Without appropriate mitigation, direct destruction of habitat may result
from work or activities such as those identified in Table 14.
The activities described in this table are neither exhaustive nor exclusive and have been
guided by the threats described in Section 1.5 (Threats). The inclusion of an activity
does not result in its automatic prohibition since it is destruction of critical habitat that is
prohibited. Furthermore, the exclusion of an activity does not preclude, or fetter the
department’s ability to regulate it pursuant to SARA. Since habitat use is often temporal
in nature, every activity is assessed on a case-by-case basis and site-specific mitigation
is applied where it is reliable and available. In every case, where information is
available, thresholds and limits are associated with attributes to better inform
45
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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management and regulatory decision-making. However, in many cases the knowledge
of a species and its critical habitat may be lacking and in particular, information
associated with a species’ or habitats thresholds of tolerance to disturbance from
human activities, is lacking and must be acquired.
Table 14. Human activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat for Eastern
Sand Darter.
(The affect pathway for each activity is provided as well as the potential links to the
biophysical functions, features, and attributes of critical habitat.)
Activity
Affect-pathway
Habitat modifications:
Dredging
Grading
Excavation
Placement of material
or structures in water
(e.g., groynes, piers,
infilling, partial infills,
jetties)
Shoreline hardening
Changes in bathymetry and
shoreline morphology
caused by dredging and
nearshore grading and
excavation can remove (or
cover) preferred substrates,
change water depths, and
change flow patterns,
potentially affecting nutrient
levels and water
temperatures.
Placing material or
structures in water reduces
habitat availability (e.g., the
footprint of the infill or
structure is lost). Placing of
fill can cover preferred
substrates.
Changing shoreline
morphology can result in
altered flow patterns,
change sediment
depositional areas, reduce
oxygenation of substrates,
cause erosion, and alter
turbidity levels. These
changes can promote
aquatic plant growth and
cause changes to nutrient
levels.
Hardening of shorelines can
reduce organic inputs into
the water and alter water
temperatures potentially
affecting the availability of
prey for this species.
Function
affected
Spawning
Nursery
Feeding
Cover
(fossorial
behaviour)
Feature
affected
Reaches of
streams and
rivers with
sand
substrates.
Sandy
shoals, bars
and beaches
in lakes.
Shallow
pools and
bays.
Attribute affected
• Moderate current
or wave action
(e.g.,
depositional
areas)
• Sand and/or
gravel with
minimal fines
• Well-oxygenated
substrates
• Warm water
temperatures
• Shallow water (<
3 m)
46
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
Activity
Affect-pathway
Function
affected
Feature
affected
2012
Attribute affected
Habitat modifications:
Water extraction
Change in timing,
duration and frequency
of flow
Water extraction can affect All (same as
surface water levels and
above)
flow and groundwater inputs
into streams and rivers,
affecting habitat availability,
the oxygenation of
substrates, and prey
abundance.
Altered flow patterns can
affect sediment deposition
(e.g., changing preferred
substrates), oxygenation of
substrates, and prey
abundance.
Reaches of
streams and
rivers with
sand
substrates.
• Moderate current
(e.g.,
depositional
areas)
• Sand and/or
gravel with
minimal fines
• Well-oxygenated
substrates
• Warm water
temperatures
Habitat modifications:
Unfettered livestock
access to waterbodies
Grazing of livestock and
ploughing to water’s
edge
Resulting damage to
All (same as
shorelines, banks, and
above)
watercourse bottoms from
unfettered access by
livestock can cause
increased erosion and
sedimentation, affecting
substrate oxygenation and
water temperatures.
Such access can also
increase organic nutrient
inputs into the water,
causing nutrient loading and
potentially promoting algal
blooms, and decreasing
prey abundance.
Reaches of
streams and
rivers with
sand
substrates.
• Sand and/or
gravel with
minimal fines
• Well-oxygenated
substrates
• Warm water
temperatures
Toxic compounds:
Over application or
misuse of herbicides
and pesticides
Release of urban and
industrial pollution into
habitat
Introduction of toxic
compounds into habitat
used by this species can
change water chemistry
affecting habitat availability
or use and cause increased
aquatic plant growth,
affecting spawning and
recruitment success.
All (same as
above)
• Well-oxygenated
substrates
• Warm water
temperatures
Spawning
Nursery
Feeding
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
Function
affected
Feature
affected
2012
Activity
Affect-pathway
Nutrient loadings:
Over-application of
fertilizer and improper
nutrient management
(e.g., organic debris
management,
wastewater
management, animal
waste, septic systems
and municipal sewage)
Improper nutrient
management can cause
nutrient loading of nearby
waterbodies. Elevated
nutrient levels can cause
increased aquatic plant
growth, changing water
temperatures, and slowly
change preferred flows and
substrates. Oxygen levels in
substrates can also be
negatively affected.
Spawning
Nursery
Feeding
Cover
(fossorial
behaviour
All (same as
above)
• Moderate
current or wave
action (e.g.,
depositional
areas)
• Sand and/or
gravel with
minimal fines
• Welloxygenated
substrates
• Warm water
temperatures
Siltation and turbidity:
Altered flow regimes
causing erosion and
changing sediment
transport (e.g., tiling of
agricultural drainage
systems, removal of
riparian zones)
Work in or around water
with improper sediment
and erosion control
(e.g., overland runoff
from ploughed fields,
use of industrial
equipment, cleaning or
maintenance of bridges
or other structures)
Improper sediment and
erosion control or mitigation
can cause increased
turbidity levels, changing
preferred substrates and
their oxygen levels,
potentially reducing feeding
success or prey availability,
impacting the growth of
aquatic vegetation, and
possibly excluding fish from
habitat due to physiological
impacts of sediment in the
water (e.g., gill irritation).
Also see: Habitat
modifications - change in
timing, duration and
frequency of flow.
All (same as
above)
All (same as
above)
• Sand and/or
gravel with
minimal fines
• Welloxygenated
substrates
• Warm water
temperatures
Riparian vegetation
removal: Mechanical
removal
Removal of riparian
vegetation can cause
erosion and increase
turbidity, ultimately affecting
preferred substrates and
oxygenation of substrates.
Water temperatures can
also be negatively affected
by removal of riparian
vegetation, and water
velocities can be increased
during high-water events.
All (same as
above)
All (same as
above)
• Moderate
current or wave
action (e.g.,
depositional
areas)
• Sand and/or
gravel with
minimal fines
• Welloxygenated
substrates
• Warm water
temperatures
2.8
Attribute affected
Activities permitted by the recovery strategy
As set out in subsection 83(4) of SARA, a person can engage in an otherwise prohibited
activity if the activity is permitted by a recovery strategy and the person is authorized
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
under an Act of Parliament to engage in that activity. Section 83(4) can be used as an
exemption to allow activities, which have been determined to not jeopardize the survival
or recovery of the species.
Continuation of limited commercial baitfish harvesting
Commercial baitfish harvesting is regulated by the Province of Ontario through the
Ontario Fishery Regulations of the Fisheries Act. Eastern Sand Darter is not a legal
baitfish. As outlined in Section 1.5 (Threats) under incidental harvest, commercial
baitfish harvesting activities are unlikely to affect Eastern Sand Darter populations and
have been determined to be eligible for an exemption as per s83(4). The management
of Eastern Sand Darter recovery could include limited fishing mortality as the threat to
Eastern Sand Darter by baitfish harvest is low. Although exempt from SARA, provincial
legislation still applies. Baitfish harvesters must also comply with conditions of their
baitfish licence.
Under s. 83(4) of SARA, this recovery strategy allows bait harvesters to engage in the
activities of commercial and sportfishing for baitfish that incidentally kill, harm, harass,
capture or take Eastern Sand Darter, subject to the following two conditions:
1. The fishing activities are conducted under licenses issued under the Ontario
Fishery Regulations, 2007.
2. All Eastern Sand Darter caught are to be released immediately and returned to
the place from where taken in a manner that causes them the least harm.
2.9
Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection
When the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) applies and a
species at risk has been identified as a valued ecosystem component within the scope
of the review pursuant to that Act, the environmental assessment will take into account,
any change that might be caused to aquatic species as defined in s.2(1) of SARA.
Furthermore, under s.79 of SARA, during an environmental assessment of a project
under CEAA (2012), the competent minister must be notified if the project will affect a
listed wildlife species or its critical habitat. Once identified, SARA includes provisions to
prevent the destruction of critical habitat of the Eastern Sand Darter. Provincially, the Eastern Sand Darter is currently listed as Threatened under Ontario’s
Endangered Species Act, 2007. The species was reassessed and listed as Threatened
in 2010 and the habitat of the Eastern Sand Darter is also protected. Protection is also
afforded under the Planning Act. Planning authorities are required to be “consistent
with” the provincial Policy Statement under Section 3 of Ontario’s Planning Act, which
prohibits development and site alteration in the habitat of Endangered and Threatened
species. The Conservation Authority Act requires review of projects that could result in
the development, interference with wetlands, and alterations to shorelines and
watercourses. A majority of the land adjacent to the rivers inhabited by the Eastern
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Sand Darter is privately owned; however, the river bottom is generally owned by the
Crown. Under the Public Lands Act, a permit may be required for work in the water and
along the shore.
The recovery team will continue to review priorities and direct efforts to improve and
protect habitat through the recommended recovery approaches.
2.10 Effects on other species
Eastern Sand Darter habitat is shared by many other species, including multiple species
at risk. These include not only aquatic species but also a number of amphibians,
turtles, and birds. Specifically, the Round Hickorynut may benefit directly as the
Eastern Sand Darter is a potential fish host for its glochidia (Clarke 1981). The
distribution of Eastern Sand Darter overlaps with the Threatened Spiny Softshell Turtle
in Ontario. Nesting habitats of these turtles have been found to occur on the inside of
river bends, downstream of eroding slopes (Dextrase et al. 2003). Therefore,
improvements to Eastern Sand Darter habitat will likely benefit the Spiny Softshell
Turtle. Some of the proposed recovery activities will benefit the environment in general
and are expected to positively affect other sympatric native species. There could be
consequences to those species whose requirements may differ from those of Eastern
Sand Darter. Consequently, it is important that habitat management activities for the
Eastern Sand Darter be considered from an ecosystem perspective through the
development, with input from responsible jurisdictions, of multi-species plans,
ecosystem-based recovery programs or area management plans that take into account
the needs of multiple species, including other species at risk.
Many of the stewardship and habitat improvement activities to benefit the Eastern Sand
Darter may be implemented through existing ecosystem-based recovery programs that
have already taken into account the needs of other species at risk.
2.11 Recommended approach for recovery implementation
The recovery team recommends a dual approach to recovery implementation that
combines an ecosystem-based approach with a single-species focus. This will be
accomplished by working closely with existing ecosystem recovery teams to combine
efficiencies and share knowledge on recovery initiatives. There are currently four
aquatic ecosystem-based recovery strategies (Thames River, Sydenham River, Grand
River, and Essex-Erie region) being implemented that address several populations of
Eastern Sand Darter. Eastern Sand Darter populations that occur outside the
boundaries of existing ecosystem-based recovery programs can use a single-species
approach to recovery that will facilitate implementation of recovery actions within these
watersheds through partnerships with local watershed management and stewardship
agencies. If ecosystem-based recovery initiatives are developed in the future for these
watersheds, the present single-species strategy will provide a strong foundation to build
upon.
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2.12 Statement on action plans
Action plans are documents that describe the activities designed to achieve the
recovery goals and objectives identified in recovery strategies. Under SARA, an action
plan provides the detailed recovery planning that supports the strategic direction set out
in the recovery strategy for the species. The plan outlines what needs to be done to
achieve the recovery goals and objectives identified in the recovery strategy, including
the measures to be taken to address the threats and monitor the recovery of the
species, as well as the measures to protect critical habitat. Action plans offer an
opportunity to involve many interests in working together to find creative solutions to
recovery challenges. As such, they may also include recommendations on individuals
and groups that should be involved in carrying out the proposed activities.
One or more actions plans relating to this recovery strategy for Ontario populations will
be produced within five years of the final recovery strategy being posted to the SARA
registry. These may include multi-species or ecosystem-based action plans.
51
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
3
2012
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Plan No. 25. Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife (RENEW). Ottawa, Ontario. 73
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Drake, D.A.R., M. Power, M.A. Koops, S.E. Doka, and N.E. Mandrak. 2008.
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Edsall, T.A. and M.N. Charlton. 1997. Nearshore waters of the Great Lakes. State of the
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Facey, D.E. 1995. The status of the Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida) in
Vermont. Unpublished report to The Nature Conservancy.
Facey, D.E. 1998. The status of the Eastern Sand Darter, Ammocrypta pellucida, in
Vermont. Canadian Field-Naturalist 112: 596-601.
Facey, D.E. and S.M. O’Brien. 2004. Influence of sediment size and substrate
composition on habitat selection and distribution of eastern sand darters (Ammocrypta
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de la production porcine sur la faune et ses habitats. Vice-présidence au
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Finch, M.R. 2009. Life history and population dynamics of Eastern Sand Darter
(Ammocrypta pellucida) in the lower Thames River, Ontario. University of Waterloo,
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Finch, M., L.A. Vélez-Espino, S.E. Doka, M. Power, and M.A. Koops. 2011. Recovery
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Gaudreau, N. 2005. Rapport sur la situation du dard de sable (Ammocrypta pellucida)
au Québec. Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune. Direction du
développement de la faune. 26 pp.
Gimenez Dixon, M. 1996. Etheostoma pellucidum. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List
of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2 (Accessed: 17 March 2010).
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55111. NRRI Technical Report No. NRRI/TR-2003/40. 39 pp. + figures.
Holm, E. and N.E. Mandrak. 1996. The status of the Eastern Sand Darter, Ammocrypta
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Jelks, H.L., S.J. Walsh, N.M. Burkhead, S. Contreras-Balderas, E. Díaz-Pardo, D.A.
Hendrickson, J. Lyons, N.E. Mandrak, F. McCormick, J.S. Nelson, S.P. Platania, B.A.
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(Pisces: Percidae), with comments on the phylogeny of Ammocrypta and related taxa.
Transactions of the Illinois Academy of Sciences 82(3-4): 163-168.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
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Invasions 12: 1269-1284.
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Phylogenetics and Evolution 10: 343-353.
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Sand Darter, Ammocrypta pellucida (Putnam, 1863), an endangered Ohio species
(Pisces: Percidae). Unpublished M.S. Thesis, Ohio State University. Columbus, Ohio.
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Kilgour, and E. Holm. 2003. Status and trends of Ontario's Sydenham River ecosystem
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283-310.
56
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
Taylor, I., B. Cudmore, C. MacCrimmon, S. Madzia, and S. Hohn. 2004. The Thames
River watershed: synthesis report (draft). Prepared for the Thames River Recovery
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TRRT (Thames River Recovery Team). 2004. Recovery strategy for the Thames River
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van Meter, H.D. and M.B. Trautman. 1970. An annotated list of the fishes of Lake Erie
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Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. 2010. Effective February 3, 2008. (Accessed:
March 17, 2010).
Welsh, S.A. and S.A. Perry. 1997. Influence of spatial scale on estimates of substrate
use by benthic darters. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 18(4): 954959.
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LIST OF PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS
Dextrase, Alan. 2010. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Drake, Andrew. 2010. University of Toronto.
Fisher, B. 2005. Non-game Aquatic Biologist, Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Electronic mail to K. Vlasman, Subject: Eastern Sand Darter.
Mandrak, Nicholas. 2010. Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Sand Darter in Canada: Ontario populations
2012
APPENDIX 1 – DEFINITION OF STATUS RANKINGS
G-Rank (global): Rank assigned to an element based on its range-wide conservation
status rank (G1 to G5, in decreasing order of priority). Elements ranked G1, G2 or G3
are considered imperilled. G-rank is assigned by NatureServe or the conservation data
centre responsible for the element in question.
N-Rank (national): Rank assigned to an element based on its national conservation
status rank (N1 to N5, in decreasing order of priority). Elements ranked N1, N2 or N3
are considered imperilled.
S-Rank (subnational): Rank assigned to element based on its provincial or state
conservation status rank (S1 to S5, in decreasing order of priority. Elements ranked S1,
S2 or S3 are considered imperilled.
Priority ranking
value
1
2
3
4
5
Priority ranking definition
Severely at risk in the province
At risk in the province
Rare or uncommon in the province
Widely spread, abundant and apparently out of danger in the
province, but there are reasons for concern in the long term
Widely spread, abundant and established stability in the
province
58
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