January 16th, 2021

More must be done for endangered plants: researcher

By Jensen, Randy on July 25, 2020.

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald


Canada’s plants are usually a ignored species for conservation in Canada, receiving far less attention than mammals and birds. Even though plants and lichens make up 37 per cent of Canada’s at-risk species, the federal funding they receive is less than a third of that number.

Jenny McCune, a University of Lethbridge professor in biological sciences and Board of Governors Research Chair in Plant Conservation, and Peter Morrison, a graduate student at McGill University, examined how many plant species listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) grow on private or federal lands. Plants listed under SARA are protected from destruction only if they grow on federal land.

“The results of our study show the Canadian government could do much more to foster research, conserve and monitor plant species at risk, especially those on private lands,” says McCune in a news release. “Plants are a huge part of Canadian biodiversity; Canadians value them for the things they provide us and for their beauty and uniqueness.”

McCune and Morrison looked at how plants fared under Canada’s two programs that encourage protection and stewardship of at-risk species on private lands. The Natural Areas Conservation Program, which provides funds to help buy lands for conservation, and The Habitat Stewardship Program provides funds for projects by conservation groups, provincial or municipal governments to help species at risk.

The researchers examined publicly available government documents and found that 75 per cent of all listed plants under SARA grow at least partly on private land and 35 per cent grow mainly on private land. Only 10 per cent grow mainly on federal land.

“With one in three endangered plants growing mainly on private land, our study highlights the importance of plant stewardship by landowners,” says McCune. “Programs like NACP and the HSP that help protect plants on non-federal land are crucial to encourage this stewardship and prevent destruction of endangered plants. We need more funding and more projects working to conserve at-risk plants if we’re going to get them off the endangered species list.”

As U of L researchers continue to push for more funding for conservation, they are hoping the federal government will do more to protect the plants that still sit on the endangered species list.

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