Edge of Extinction
This evaluation reports on the species found in Canada that are at the highest risk of global extinction.
species in Canada that are assessed as Critically Imperilled by NatureServe or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Successful conservation actions have prevented the extinction of species including Whooping Crane and Vancouver Island Marmot
The number of edge of extinction species in Canada has increased by
Why does the edge of extinction matter?
- Canada has 187 species assessed as Critically Imperilled by NatureServe or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These species are especially vulnerable to extinction, particularly in the absence of effective conservation actions.
- BC, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia have the greatest number of edge of extinction species in Canada, but these species occur in every province and territory.
- The number of edge of extinction species in Canada has increased by 40% since 2022. This significant increase from last year is a result of new species assessments (e.g., several lichens) and increasing risk (e.g., several Lake Sturgeon populations).
- Conservation actions have prevented the extinction of several species including Whooping Crane and Vancouver Island Marmot.
- Less than one-third of these species have been assessed by COSEWIC and are legally designated as at risk in Canada under the federal Species at Risk Act.
- Half of these species are endemic to Canada and not found anywhere else in the world.
- Species that have small ranges will often trigger Key Biodiversity Areas and will benefit from habitat conservation and stewardship. Species that are widespread and rapidly declining will require limiting cumulative impacts of multiple threats, including habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive species, pollution, and climate change.
Calls to action
Addressing the biodiversity crisis in Canada will require transformative change. See our backgrounder on transformative change for more information. Specific actions for the conservation of edge of extinction species include:
Federal, provincial, territorial & Indigenous governments
- Establish and effectively manage protected and conserved areas to protect the habitat for edge of extinction species, particularly those with small ranges.
- Invest in actions to accelerate the identification and stewardship of Key Biodiversity Areas across Canada.
- Prioritize edge of extinction species for assessments and listing under the Species at Risk Act and provincial/ territorial species at risk legislation. Include these species in federal environmental assessments so they get extra attention before it’s too late.
- Prepare and implement recovery and action plans for all edge of extinction species.
- Support Conservation Data Centres across Canada in surveying and ranking edge of extinction species to track and report on their status and trends.
- Bolster funding and programs aimed at preventing endangerment of species, and before cost-intensive actions are needed.
Local governments & communities
- Inventory and map edge of extinction and other globally threatened species based on best available information and prioritise their habitat in land use planning decisions.
- Leverage the uniqueness and importance of edge of extinction species to foster community pride and a sense of place and build support for conservation actions.
Civil societies, community organizations, universities, colleges & museums
- Target edge of extinction species for land protection and stewardship actions.
- Support and advocate for the designation of Key Biodiversity Areas that include edge of extinction species.
- Build awareness about the importance of conserving edge of extinction species in Canada and the local actions we can take to protect Earth’s biodiversity.
- Develop and implement recovery strategies for edge of extinction species that are not currently included in the federal Species at Risk Act or provincial/ territorial species at risk legislation.
Businesses & corporations
- Use the Key Biodiversity Areas registry and other resources to identify edge of extinction species that can be protected and stewarded by your business.
- Avoid projects that could impact these species and their habitat.
- “Adopt” edge of extinction species and fund communities and organizations that are protecting these species.
- Learn and talk about edge of extinction species that occur near your home.
- Support Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) or other conservation projects near you that help to highlight and conserve edge of extinction species. Volunteer as a KBA caretaker or create a caretaker group.
The species highlighted in this evaluation are among the one million species that are at risk of extinction in the coming decades.
Some edge of extinction species are critically endangered because their numbers are very low or they have a very small range, while others are critically endangered because they are rapidly declining.
NatureServe and the IUCN Red List use complimentary, but different criteria for assessing conservation status. Status assessments by NatureServe have been completed for a much larger number of species than IUCN Red List assessments. Additional information in species assessments can be found in in our backgrounder documents and these sites:
Confidence and limitations
High confidence – conservation status ranks are assigned and curated by NatureServe and by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Species observations must meet specific assessment criteria to be included in these databases.
Species rankings are maintained and regularly updated by NatureServe and the IUCN and they provide the most comprehensive assessment of species ranks in Canada. Some status rankings may have changed since the query for this evaluation was done. The Red List includes a very limited and select number include sub-species, varieties and populations. Populations in NatureServe are based on populations identified through Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessments. Not all populations have been assigned ranks by NatureServe (e.g., Blanding’s Turtle – Nova Scotia population).
This butterfly is extremely rare and known from only three known wild populations in BC and about a dozen in Washington and Oregon. They were once widespread in coastal and inland grasslands on southern Vancouver Island and adjacent islands. Captive rearing and release, and habitat enhancement projects by BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, BC Parks, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Wildlife Preservation Canada, and others have been supporting the conservation and recovery of this globally imperiled species.
The entre global range of this small yellow wildflower (Draba bruce-bennettii) is restricted to the Dawson Range in Yukon Territory. It is known from only two sites and grows on exposed rock in the alpine tundra. It was discovered only a decade ago and may have survived the last ice age in these mountains. While potentially threatened by mining activities, the main concern for its future survival is climate change. Klaza Draba, and other alpine species with small ranges, may not be able to shift their range in response to rapidly warming temperatures and other changes to the climate.
Photo by Bruce Bennett
Applications and next steps
This evaluation highlights species in Canada that are at the greatest risk of global extinction. This information can be used to identify high priority species for conservation assessments and for recovery planning and actions. Conserving edge of extinction species will support Target 4 of the Global Biodiversity Framework and Canada’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy to reduce and halt global extinctions. Future versions of this evaluation will be used to build public awareness through an annual “top ten” list.
Figure 1. Edge of Extinction Species in Canada, number by province and territory
How to Cite
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada. 2023. Edge of extinction (version 2.0), in SHAPE of Nature. https://shapeofnature.ca/
For More Information
Contact us for more information or for a copy of the data in XL: gillianw6.sg-host.com/take-action or email@example.com
This evaluation will be updated annually. We will also release a list of the “top ten” edge of extinction species annually on Endangered Species Day 2024 (third Friday in May) to build awareness about wildlife conservation.
Data sources & methods
We searched the NatureServe Explorer database for species and infraspecies (subspecies, varieties, and populations) that occur in Canada and are ranked globally as “Critically Imperiled” based on a query of Rounded Global Status of G1. Species with provisional and questionable taxonomy were included in the query. Only species that regularly occur in Canada are included (i.e., species ranked NNA, NX, NH were excluded). Hybrids were also excluded (e.g., Isoetes x eatonii). Species assessed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered (search “Canada” + “Critically Endangered” + “Extant (resident) that are not ranked G1 by NatureServe were also added to the list.
Species that were missing location information in NatureServe were manually assigned a province or territory if this information was available. These manual assignments are indicated by an asterisk in Table 1. Species in the query that could not be confidentially assigned to a location in Canada and were excluded. Species with a mismatch between the global and subnational rank were also removed and this information was shared with NatureServe Canada to inform future updates of their database.
These original queries were generated in April 2023 and are available in XL format.
S1 Edge of Extinction
S2 Globally Threatened Species
S3 Species at Risk
S4 Endemic Species
S5 Knowledge of Species
S6 State of Canada's Trees
S7 State of Canada's Whales
H1 Globally Threatened Ecosystems
A1 Protected & Conserved Areas
A2 Recovery Plans for Species at Risk
P1 Biodiversity Laws, Policies & Plans
P2 Provincial & Territorial Species at Risk Laws
P3 Delays in Protecting Species at Risk