Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bottom Line: They're All Bad.

The Newfoundland Marten is an endangered species. Photo: Vidcraft Productions

Some specifics on terminology from Environment Canada's "You Asked Us" section. I hadn't asked, but it's good to know:

Is there a difference between a species being threatened, at risk or endangered, or can these terms be used interchangeably?

In everyday language, the term 'endangered species' is often used to refer to species that are at some level of risk of becoming extinct (no longer existing anywhere). However, in Canada there is a committee of experts that assesses and designates which wild species are in some danger of disappearing from Canada – the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). COSEWIC has adopted a system of categorization used to determine the level of risk a certain species falls under.

Under COSEWIC, a species at risk is defined as a species that is extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern. Therefore, when someone refers to a species as threatened or endangered, these are both considered species at risk.

The terms threatened and endangered, however, each have a different meaning under COSEWIC, and should not be used interchangeably.

According to COSEWIC wildlife species definition and status categories, a species with the status of endangered is a wildlife species facing imminent extirpation (no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere) or extinction. An endangered species is considered to be at a greater risk of extinction or extirpation than a species designated as threatened, which is defined as a wildlife species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.

Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), there are currently 386 species that are at risk in Canada, of which 167 are endangered and 112 are threatened.

In North America, there may be some confusion because there are some differences in terminology between Canada and the United States. Similar to Canada's SARA, the United States' Endangered Species Act (ESA) designates a different meaning between the terms endangered and threatened. Like COSEWIC definitions, the ESA considers an endangered species (in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range) at more of a risk than a threatened species (likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range). However, unlike its Canadian counterpart, the ESA considers 'species at risk' a general term for listed species as well as unlisted ones that are declining in population.

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