The most unknown groups of species assessed in the Wild Species reports

Photo: Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia © Joanne Bovee

Photo: Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia © Joanne Bovee

The knowledge on species in Canada is variable. For example, we generally have more information on the vertebrates, which include species such as birds, mammal, and amphibians, and we generally have less information on the invertebrates, which include species such as insects, spiders, corals, and others. These lesser-known taxonomic groups are important in the program on the General Status of Species in Canada, since they represent the majority of species.

When a taxonomic group is included in the Wild Speciesreports, the level of knowledge available is evaluated. In the text of the report, a section on the status of knowledge is included for each group of species. This section shortly describes the history of the research that was done on this taxonomic group in Canada, and the major topics that have mostly retain attention so far. The Wild Species reports thus inform on the conservation status of species, but also on the status of our knowledge.

The ranking system used by the National General Status Working Group includes a category to designate the species for which insufficient data, information, or knowledge is available to reliably evaluate their general status. This category is called "Undetermined". A similar category called "Not Assessed" is also used and designates species that are known or believed to be present regularly in Canada, but have not yet been assessed by the General Status program. In the Wild Species 2010 report, of the total 11,950 species assessed, 1618 species were ranked as undetermined or not assessed at the national level. The taxonomic groups that had the highest number of species ranked as undetermined or not assessed were the spiders (477 species), the ground beetles (260 species), the mosses (235 species) and the lichens (218 species). These taxonomic groups are also among those with the most species, so the following table presents the proportion for each specific group.

 

Proportion of species ranked as undetermined or not assessed at the national level in Canada in the Wild Species 2010 report.
Taxonomic group
Proportion of species with a rank of undetermined or not assessed
Bumble bees
61%
Lady beetles
40%
Spiders
35%
Ground beetles
28%
Macrolichens
25%
Mosses
23%
Predacious diving beetles
23%
Black flies
21%
Horse flies
16%
Mosquitoes
14%
Selected macromoths
12%
Dragonflies and damselflies
5%
Mammals
5%
Freshwater mussels
4%
Butterflies
4%
Vascular plants
3%
Reptiles
2%
Birds
1%
Crayfishes
0%
Amphibians
0%

 

Moreover, some taxonomic groups also currently have a level of knowledge too low to be considered for inclusion in the Wild Species reports. For example, there are many groups of invertebrates for which we are unable to build a species list in Canada. The lists of species represent the first step to enable the assessment of the conservation status. We hope that more information will become available for those groups as well. Without information on the status of these species, it is difficult to judge how the human uses affect the ecosystems and species. As the National General Status Working Group assesses species groups which are not well-known or not well-studied in Canada, the total proportion of species that receive ranks of undetermined or not assessed is likely to rise. One purpose of these reports is to encourage more information to be collected on species currently ranked as undetermined or not assessed.