Terms of Reference
Updated Recovery Potential Assessment for Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida) in Ontario [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake Designatable Units], 2010–2022
Regional Peer Review - Ontario and Prairie Region
April 26, 2023
Chairperson: Kayla Gagliardi
After the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses an aquatic species as Threatened, Endangered or Extirpated, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) undertakes a number of actions required to support implementation of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Many of these actions require scientific information on the current status of the wildlife species, threats to its survival and recovery, and the feasibility of recovery. Formulation of this scientific advice has typically been developed through a Recovery Potential Assessment (RPA) that is conducted shortly after the COSEWIC assessment. This timing allows for consideration of peer-reviewed scientific analyses into SARA processes including recovery planning.
Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida) was first assessed by COSEWIC in April 1994 as Threatened, and the status was re-assessed and confirmed in November 2000. It was listed as Threatened on Schedule 1 of SARA in 2003. A change in Designatable Unit (DU) structure was proposed following the 2009 COSEWIC re-assessment resulting in an Ontario and a Quebec DU, which were subsequently listed separately, both Threatened, in 2013. A zonal RPA was conducted by DFO in December 2009 for the Ontario and Quebec DUs, and a Recovery Strategy for the Ontario DU was completed in 2012. A third DU was proposed by COSEWIC in November 2021 for the newly-discovered West Lake, Ontario population, with both the Southwestern Ontario (new name for clarity) and West Lake DUs assessed as Threatened. Many RPA elements have been recently addressed for the Southwestern Ontario DU in the primary literature, and few new analyses are required. Therefore, a Science Response will be undertaken to supplement and/or update information contained in the original RPA with information from 2010-2022. Additionally, given limited DU-specific information available for the West Lake DU, it will be presented alongside the Southwestern Ontario DU and distinguished where information allows.
In support of listing recommendations for Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs] by the Minister, DFO Science has been asked to undertake an RPA, based on the national RPA Guidance. The advice in the RPA may be used to inform both scientific and socio-economic aspects of the listing decision, development of a recovery strategy and action plan, and to support decision making with regards to the issuance of permits or agreements, and the formulation of exemptions and related conditions, as per sections 73, 74, 75, 77, 78 and 83(4) of SARA. The advice in the RPA may also be used to prepare for the reporting requirements of SARA s.55. The advice generated via this process will update and/or consolidate any existing advice regarding the Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs].
To provide up-to-date information, and associated uncertainties, to address the following elements:
Biology, Abundance, Distribution and Life History Parameters
Element 1: Summarize the biology of Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs].
Element 2: Evaluate the recent species trajectory for abundance, distribution and number of populations.
Element 3: Estimate the current or recent life-history parameters for Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs].
Habitat and Residence Requirements
Element 4: Describe the habitat properties that Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs] needs for successful completion of all life-history stages. Describe the function(s), feature(s), and attribute(s) of the habitat, and quantify by how much the biological function(s) that specific habitat feature(s) provides varies with the state or amount of habitat, including carrying capacity limits, if any.
Element 5: Provide information on the spatial extent of the areas in Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs]’s distribution that are likely to have these habitat properties.
Element 6: Quantify the presence and extent of spatial configuration constraints, if any, such as connectivity, barriers to access, etc.
Element 7: Evaluate to what extent the concept of residence applies to the species, and if so, describe the species’ residence.
Threats and Limiting Factors to the Survival and Recovery of Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs]
Element 8: Assess and prioritize the threats to the survival and recovery of the Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs]. Element 9: Identify the activities most likely to threaten (i.e., damage or destroy) the habitat properties identified in elements 4-5 and provide information on the extent and consequences of these activities.
Element 9: Identify the activities most likely to threaten (i.e., damage or destroy) the habitat properties identified in elements 4-5 and provide information on the extent and consequences of these activities.
Element 10: Assess any natural factors that will limit the survival and recovery of the Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs].
Element 11: Discuss the potential ecological impacts of the threats identified in element 8 to the target species and other co-occurring species. List the possible benefits and disadvantages to the target species and other co-occurring species that may occur if the threats are abated. Identify existing monitoring efforts for the target species and other co-occurring species associated with each of the threats, and identify any knowledge gaps.
Element 12: Propose candidate abundance and distribution target(s) for recovery.
Element 13: Project expected population trajectories over a scientifically reasonable time frame (minimum of 10 years), and trajectories over time to the potential recovery target(s), given current Eastern Sand Darter [Southwestern Ontario and West Lake DUs] population dynamics parameters.
Element 14: Provide advice on the degree to which supply of suitable habitat meets the demands of the species both at present and when the species reaches the potential recovery target(s) identified in element 12.
Element 15: Assess the probability that the potential recovery target(s) can be achieved under current rates of population dynamics parameters, and how that probability would vary with different mortality (especially lower) and productivity (especially higher) parameters.
Scenarios for Mitigation of Threats and Alternatives to Activities
Element 16: Develop an inventory of feasible mitigation measures and reasonable alternatives to the activities that are threats to the species and its habitat (as identified in elements 8 and 10).
Element 17: Develop an inventory of activities that could increase the productivity or survivorship parameters (as identified in elements 3 and 15).
Element 18: If current habitat supply may be insufficient to achieve recovery targets (see element 14), provide advice on the feasibility of restoring the habitat to higher values. Advice must be provided in the context of all available options for achieving abundance and distribution targets.
Element 19: Estimate the reduction in mortality rate expected by each of the mitigation measures or alternatives in element 16 and the increase in productivity or survivorship associated with each measure in element 17.
Element 20: Project expected population trajectory (and uncertainties) over a scientifically reasonable time frame and to the time of reaching recovery targets, given mortality rates and productivities associated with the specific measures identified for exploration in element 19. Include those that provide as high a probability of survivorship and recovery as possible for biologically realistic parameter values.
Element 21: Recommend parameter values for population productivity and starting mortality rates and, where necessary, specialized features of population models that would be required to allow exploration of additional scenarios as part of the assessment of economic, social, and cultural impacts in support of the listing process.
Allowable Harm Assessment
Element 22: Evaluate maximum human-induced mortality and habitat destruction that the species can sustain without jeopardizing its survival or recovery.
- Science Response
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Science, Species at Risk Program)
- Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
- Conservation Authorities
- Other invited experts
- COSEWIC. 2022. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Eastern Sand Darter Ammocrypta pellucida, Southwestern Ontario population, Quebec population and West Lake population in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xxi + 74 pp.
Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.
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