Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation for the Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada for the Period 2007 – 2015
Table of contents
- Executive summary
- 2 Recovery
- 3. Progress towards recovery
- 4. References
List of tables
- Table 1. Summary of achievements towards completing the Schedule of Studies and/or identification of critical habitat, as well as new research and monitoring activities conducted and/or ongoing since the completion of the Recovery Strategy
- Table 2. Summary of activities undertaken to reduce or eliminate threats to Hotwater Physa
Figure long description
The cover illustration is a photograph of Hotwater Physa on Chara spp. Reference information is found on the second page of the document which is not numbered.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2016. Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation for the Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada for the Period 2007 – 2015. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Report Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. v + 14 pp.
For copies of the progress report, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, action plans, and other related recovery documents, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry.
Cover illustration: Photo of Hotwater Physa on Chara spp. Credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.
Également disponible en français sous le titre « Rapport sur les progrès de la mise en oeuvre du programme de rétablissement de la physe d’eau chaude (Physella wrighti) au Canada pour la période allant de 2007 à 2015 »
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2016. All rights reserved.
ISBN to be included by SARA Responsible Agency
Catalogue no. to be included by SARA Responsible Agency
Content (excluding the cover illustration) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.
The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under Section 46 of the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the competent ministers are responsible for reporting on the implementation of the recovery strategy for a species at risk, and on the progress towards meeting its objectives within five years of the date when the recovery strategy was placed on the Species at Risk Public Registry and in every subsequent five-year period, until its objectives have been achieved or the species’ recovery is no longer feasible.
Reporting on the progress of recovery strategy implementation requires reporting on the collective efforts of the competent minister(s), provincial and territorial governments and all other parties involved in conducting activities that contribute to the species’ recovery. Recovery strategies identify broad strategies and approaches that will provide the best chance of recovering species at risk. Some of the identified strategies and approaches are sequential to the progress or completion of others and not all may be undertaken or show significant progress during the timeframe of a Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation (Progress Report).
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is the competent minister(s) under SARA for the Hotwater Physa and has prepared this Progress Report.
As stated in the preamble to SARA, success in the recovery of species at risk depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in the recovery strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or any other jurisdiction alone. The cost of conserving species at risk is shared amongst different constituencies. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing the Recovery Strategy for the Hotwater Physa for the benefit of the species and Canadian society as a whole.
This Progress Report was prepared by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in cooperation with Jennifer Heron and Greg Wilson of the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment (BC MOE). To the extent possible, this Progress Report has been prepared with inputs from: Doug Bifford, Al Hansen, Anna McIndoe, Ted Down, Dave Fraser, and Sue Pollard with the BC MOE and BC Parks; Dwayne Lepitzki; Sue Salter; Jackie Lee; Nadine Pinnell, Jonathan Thar, Martin Nantel, and Alyssa Gerick with DFO; Cory Sheffield (Royal Saskatchewan Museum); and Melissa Frey (Royal British Columbia Museum). The Department of Fisheries and Oceans would also like to express its appreciation to all individuals and organizations who have contributed to the recovery of the Hotwater Physa.
The Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) was assessed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1998 and 2000, and subsequently listed under the Species at Risk Act as Endangered in June of 2003. In January of 2007 a final Recovery Strategy was posted to the Species at Risk Public Registry. The species’ COSEWIC status was re-assessed and confirmed as Endangered in 2008 (COSEWIC 2008).
Threats to Hotwater Physa, as identified in the Recovery Strategy for Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada (Heron 2007), include anthropogenic change to the flow regime of the hotsprings, introduction of deleterious substances, physical habitat destruction or alteration, introduced species, and collecting. The recovery goal for Hotwater Physa as identified in the Recovery Strategy is to “maintain and protect the population(s) of Hotwater Physa within its natural geographic range and within its current variation of abundance at the Liard River hotsprings complex.”
This report documents the progress of Recovery Strategy implementation for Hotwater Physa. It summarizes progress that Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, and other interested parties have made towards achieving the goal and objectives set out in the Recovery Strategy, including:
- conducting new research and monitoring activities (including advancing studies to support the identification of critical habitat); and
- completing management activities that help Canadians reduce impacts on, and better understand the threats to, Hotwater Physa.
1.1 Species status
Assessment summary – April 2008
Reason for designation:
This small snail is an endemic species living only within the hotsprings complex located in Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park in British Columbia. The population is small, numbering fewer than 10,000 individuals, and occupies an extremely restricted habitat around the margins of two pools and an outlet stream. Population size is believed to fluctuate by at least an order of magnitude in this short-lived snail (~1 year lifespan). The species is a habitat specialist requiring geothermally regulated water and substrates near the water/air interface in areas of no current. The hotsprings complex has been in use by humans for over 200 years. The species has survived structural modification and maintenance of the pools, the introduction of foreign substances such as soaps and shampoos, and trampling. However, a single event such as abrupt changes in water flow, chemical contamination or introduction of exotic species, could significantly affect persistence of this snail.
Occurrence in Canada:
Designated Endangered in April 1998. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000 and April 2008. Last assessment based on an update status report.
Species at Risk Act Status:
1.2.1 Threats to hotwater physa
Threats to Hotwater Physa, as identified in the Recovery Strategy for Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada, include: anthropogenic change to the flow regime of the hotsprings, introduction of deleterious substances, physical habitat destruction or alteration, introduced species, and collecting for scientific research (Heron 2007).
1.2.2 Activities likely to destroy critical habitat
Neither activities likely to destroy critical habitat nor critical habitat were identified for Hotwater Physa in the Recovery Strategy; however, these will both be identified in a forthcoming Action Plan.
2.1 Recovery goal and objectives
The Recovery Goal and Objectives1(identified in Sections 2.1 and 2.3 of the Recovery Strategy), are as follows:
The recovery goal for Hotwater Physa is to maintain and protect the population(s) of Hotwater Physa within its natural geographic range and within its current variation of abundance at the Liard River hotsprings complex.
The short term objectives used to monitor recovery of the Hotwater Physa are to:
- observe that the species current distribution within the Alpha [Pool] and Beta [Complex] and streams is maintained, and to refine the understanding of the current distribution to better quantify this objective by 2011; and
- observe that the species current relative abundance is maintained, and to develop methodology that increases survey precision by 2011.
2.2 Performance measures
Performance Measures (as outlined in Section 2.6 of the Recovery Strategy) are reproduced in Section 3.3 of this report.
3. Progress towards recovery
Section 46 of the Species at Risk Act requires the competent Minister to report on the implementation of the Recovery Strategy, and the progress towards meeting its objectives, within five years after it is included in the public registry and in every subsequent five-year period, until its objectives have been achieved or the species’ recovery is no longer feasible. In the interest of capturing the most recent progress on the recovery of Hotwater Physa, this document includes actions completed up to 2015.
3.1 Research and monitoring activities
Long description of Table 1
Table 1 provides a summary of the achievements to date towards completing the Schedule of Studies, identification of critical habitat, new research and monitoring activities. The table is read horizontally from left to right, and consists of five columns and twenty one rows. The top row contains the column headings for the summary of achievements which are # (item number), Strategy, Recovery Objectives Addressed, Activities Completed or Underway, and Organizations Involved. The second row is a subheading containing the Broad Strategy or Activities from Schedule of Studies outlined in the Recovery Strategy, which broadly defines the activities, under which there are one or more rows that identify a related activity, with the columns filled in for each row. A detailed description of the Activities related to the Strategy is provided in column four, with the row subdivided where there are multiple activities related to a single Strategy.
|#||Strategy2||Recovery Objectives Addressed||Activities Completed or Underway||Organizations Involved|
|Activities from Schedule of Studies outlined in 2007 Recovery Strategy.|
|1.||Standard survey protocol specifically to determine population abundance. Methodology needs to be repeatable and with minimal disturbance to the snails and habitat.||1, 2|
Lauzier et al.’s Recovery Potential Assessment (2011) developed and tested a survey protocol for an index of population abundance for HWP3 in 2008.
|2.||Surveys within the hotsprings aquatic habitat, to document habitat use patterns, abundance and population structure.||1, 2|
Salter (2007) conducted:
Lauzier et al. (2011) conducted the following in September of 2008:
BC MOE (2014) conducted the following in 2012 and 2013:
The BC MOE recorded stereoscopic, high resolution aerial photos of the entire DRH and LRHPP in 2014 (LRHPP photographs were georeferenced with various layers e.g. thermal spring outlets, streams, pools and swamps, lagoons, infrastructure).
|BC MOE; DFO|
|3.||Determine if there are additional viable populations/subpopulations of snails.||1, 2|
In 2008 (Lauzier et al. 2011), 2012 and 2013 (BC MOE 2014) provincial and federal government staff conducted surveys observing snails in previously unrecorded areas of Delta Complex.
|BC MOE; DFO;|
Royal Saskatchewan Museum; Royal British Columbia Museum
|4.||Delineate parameters of habitat use and relate to population fluctuations. These factors will help define the components of the aquatic habitat that are critical to the snail.||1, 2||BC MOE; DFO|
|5.||Define the abiotic (including water temperature and flow, and tufa formation) and biotic (including Chara and aufwuch occurrence) factors of distribution, and compare to snail distribution as determined from surveys.||1, 2||BC MOE; DFO|
|6.||Determine the influence that stream dimensions, dynamics, pools and eddies and coarse woody debris and other substrates may have on the distribution of the snail.||1, 2|
BC MOE (2014) measured depth profiles in Alpha Complex Stream and Beta Complex in 2012 and 2013.
|BC MOE; DFO|
|7.||Identify elements considered to be critical to the snail’s survival.||1, 2||DFO; BC MOE|
|Broad Strategy: Monitoring.|
|8.||Establish a standardized protocol for population monitoring, habitat occupancy and distribution surveys. Protocol should include habitat where the snail is not known to occur.||1, 2||Refer to Row 1 of Table 1.|
|9.||Map the distribution and population information throughout the hotsprings complex.||1, 2|
In 2012 and 2013 BC MOE (2014):
The BC MOE recorded stereoscopic, high resolution aerial photos of the entire DRH and LRHPP in 2014 (LRHPP photographs were georeferenced with various layers e.g. thermal spring outlets, streams, pools and swamps, lagoons, infrastructure).
|BC MOE; DFO|
|Broad Strategy: Knowledge Gaps.|
|10.||Undertake genetic studies to confirm that P. wrighti is a distinct species.||1, 2||UA;13STRI14|
|Refer to Row 3 of Table 1|
|11.||In the event population surveys determine that there is a decline in the population, and the cause can not be identified, develop a research plan to identify the cause.||1, 2||BC MOE; DFO|
|Broad Strategy: Threats Monitoring.|
|12.||Evaluate the effectiveness of|
measures used to prevent deleterious substances entering the hotsprings water (e.g., water sampling or monitoring of park users’ habits).
|1, 2||BC MOE|
|13.||In the event the levels of deleterious substances are found to be a concern, evaluate the effect on the snail.||1, 2||BC MOE|
|14.||Monitor the introduction of natural sedimentation and changes to riparian structure into the hotsprings complex.||1, 2||BC MOE|
|15.||Document introduction of invasive species and if invasive species are introduced develop an invasive species management strategy.||1, 2||BC MOE; DFO|
|16.||In the event that there is an interest in development (e.g. oil and gas exploration or hydroelectric), define the risks to the source water from the industrial activity outside of the park boundaries.||1, 2||BC MOE; DFO; BC Ministry of Natural Gas Development|
3.1 Management activities
Long description of Table 2
Table 2 provides a list of activities undertaken to reduce or eliminate threats to the Hotwater Physa. The table is read horizontally from left to right, and consists of five columns and fourteen rows. The top row contains the column headings for the summary of activities which are # (item number), Strategy, Recovery Objectives Addressed, Activities Completed or Underway, and Organizations Involved. The second row is a subheading containing the Broad Strategy, which broadly defines the activities, under which there are one or more rows that identify a related activity, with the columns filled in for each row. Item numbers are continuous from Table 1. A detailed description of the Activities related to the Strategy is provided in column four, with the row subdivided where there are multiple activities related to a single Strategy.
|#||Activity Description||Recovery Objectives Addressed||Activities Completed or Underway||Organizations Involved|
|Broad Strategy: Protection.|
|17.||Update the Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park Master Plan and include provisions for the construction of boardwalks, as necessary.||1, 2|
The BC MOE:
|18.||Develop a quick response plan for retrieving snails in the event of a natural catastrophic event.||1, 2||Not applicable|
|19.||Record and assess the impact of physical changes to the habitat by humans (physical destruction of habitat, trampling, etc.).||1, 2||Refer to Row 2 of Table 1|
|20.||Apply to obtain a water license for conservation purposes on the hotsprings output.||1, 2||BC MOE|
|21.||In the event an interest in oil and gas or geothermal exploration arises, develop and implement guidelines to mitigate the potential impacts to geothermal sources.||1, 2||BC Ministry of Natural Gas Development|
|22.||Develop a weir maintenance protocol for park staff.||1, 2||BC MOE|
|23.||Evaluate necessity and means to restrict public access to critical habitat.||1, 2||BC MOE|
|Broad Strategy: Park Education.|
|24.||Develop a communications strategy, as necessary, to minimize impact from recreational users.||1, 2||BC MOE; DFO; Lime Design Inc; j.communications|
|Blue Ant Media|
|Other management activities (not identified in 2007 Recovery Strategy).|
|25.||Manage access to Alpha and Beta [Complex] as necessary.||1, 2||BC MOE|
|26.||Reduce footprint of Liard River hotsprings complex facility.||1, 2||BC MOE|
3.3 Summary of progress towards recovery
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in collaboration with the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, is developing an Action Plan for Hotwater Physa as part of the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to the conservation of species at risk through the implementation of the Species at Risk Act.
Report on process performance measures
Performance measures (as outlined in the Recovery Strategy) and their outcomes are addressed below.
Was Hotwater Physa’s current distribution within the Alpha [Pool] and Beta [Complex] and outlet streams maintained through 2011? Is there a better understanding towards quantifying this objective by 2011?
Presence within Alpha Pool and Beta Complex was maintained through 2011 (Heron pers. comm. 2015). COSEWIC (2008) and Lauzier et al. (2011) observed similar patterns in distribution in 2006 and 2008. In addition, BC MOE (2014) observed previously unrecorded areas of occupancy in 2012 and 2013. Lauzier at al. (2011) also summarized observations of microhabitat use. Further analysis of results from 2012 and 2013 surveys is expected to enhance understanding of Hotwater Physa distribution. Recently collected aerial photos are also expected to assist in estimating macrodistribution, specifically the amount of stream and pond habitat, and possibly Chara distribution. Quantifying changes in distribution may be feasible in the future as more Hotwater Physa habitats are mapped.
Was Hotwater Physa’s current relative abundance maintained through 2011? Was a methodology developed to increase survey precision by 2011?
Lauzier et al. (2011) reported that as of 2008 populations appeared to be stable, with seasonal fluctuations. BC MOE (2014) observed potential increases from 2008 – 2013. However, both studies emphasize the inability to compare population estimates across years with confidence, due to inconsistent methodology and low sample sizes.
Lauzier et al.’s observations reveal that quadrats are not feasible, and small disturbances by surveyors can significantly impact results. Recognizing this, and the potential habitat impacts from surveyors, Lauzier et al. developed a standardized monitoring and habitat assessment protocol (2011) and BC MOE developed updated protocols for index site monitoring and photo monitoring (2014).
Was population monitoring carried out? Was a standardized protocol for population monitoring and habitat assessment developed?
Salter (2007), Lauzier et al. (2011), and BC MOE (2014) conducted population monitoring (refer to Row 2 of Table 1). Lauzier et al. developed a standardized monitoring and habitat assessment protocol (2011) and BC MOE developed updated protocols for index site monitoring and photo monitoring (2014).
Was the Liard River Hotsprings Park Master Plan reviewed? Were additional options to protect habitat within the park considered?
While the Master Plan has not been reviewed, the BC MOE has conducted the following to protect habitat within the park: closed public access to Beta Complex and the connecting pathway from Alpha Pool in March of 2010; refitted and secured the Alpha Pool outlet weir in 2011 with durable hardware requiring minimal maintenance; replaced an aged structure in Alpha Pool in 2012 and 2013, reducing the facility’s footprint in the pool, and likely reducing the frequency of future repairs; and installed additional signage in 2014 highlighting Hotwater Physa, reminding visitors not to use shampoo, soap, insect repellant, or sunscreen before entering hotsprings. BC Parks staff also frequently monitor infrastructure condition and illegal human use of restricted areas. The Ministry of Natural Gas Development also established a Resource Review Area in 2014; as a result, subsurface tenure requests for petroleum and natural gas rights within the hotsprings’ recharge zone or Hotwater Physa critical habitat will not be accepted.
Has the understanding of threats to Hotwater Physa been improved? How?
All research and monitoring conducted (refer to Rows 2 to 7, 9 to 14 of Table 1) improves the understanding of threats to Hotwater Physa. For example monitoring of population levels and habitat changes can indicate when and where threats are the most prominent. Increased knowledge of genetics may identify additional populations, informing the degree of Hotwater Physa’s endemism and overall susceptibility to threats. Knowledge of the hotsprings’ source also enables park managers to better assess threats relating to water quality. Lauzier et al. (2011) describes the magnitude of each major potential source of mortality, and the magnitude by which current threats to habitats have reduced habitat quantity and quality. Additional research and monitoring is, however, required prior to updating threats as described in the Recovery Strategy.
Were any genetic studies undertaken and, if so, did the distinct species status of Hotwater Physa change? In what way? Does this knowledge assist the recovery plans for Hotwater Physa? Was there a decline in the population that requires new research studies to be identified? What studies are needed or were carried out?
Refer to Rows 3 and 10 (Table 1) for a summary of genetic studies undertaken. The distinct species status of Hotwater Physa remains unchanged pending further research and analysis. Positive identification of Hotwater Physa within Delta Complex assists in recovery plans insofar as park managers can better monitor and protect snails at known sites.
Lauzier et al. (2011) reported that as of 2008, populations appeared to be stable, with seasonal fluctuations. BC MOE (2014) observed potential increases from 2008 – 2013. However, both studies emphasize the inability to compare population estimates across years with confidence, due to inconsistent methodology and low sample sizes.
Required studies relating to genetics include: further morphological and genetic analysis of snail specimens from various sites; more sampling to attain full length barcode sequences to help clarify taxa at each site; and, continued standardized monitoring of LRHPP (Row 2 of Table 1) to search for new locations and/or populations.
Did awareness of the Hotwater Physa and their habitat improve protection?
The BC MOE installed additional signage in 2014 highlighting HWP, reminding visitors not to use shampoo, soap, insect repellant, or sunscreen before entering hotsprings. In addition, the television series A Park for All Seasons filmed an episode featuring Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park (Oasis 2014), including specific content on Hotwater Physa. This episode first aired in the summer 2013, and subsequently re-aired.
The signage and television episode are both expected to increase awareness among park visitors and potentially reduce adverse impacts to Hotwater Physa and their habitats; however, an evaluation of how awareness has affected protection has yet to be conducted.
- BC MOE (British Columbia Ministry of Environment). 2014. 2012 and 2013 Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) field studies at Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park. British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia. viii + 57 pp.
- COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). 2008. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Hotwater Physa Physella wrighti in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario. vii + 34 pp.
- GW Solutions Inc. 2010. Liard hotsprings groundwater regime. GW Solutions Inc., Nanaimo, British Columbia. 17 pp.
- Hansen, A., pers. comm. 2015. E-mail to A. Gerick.September 2015. Area Supervisor, British Columbia Parks, Liard Area – Northern Region, British Columbia.
- Heron, J. 2007. Recovery strategy for the Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Vancouver. vii + 27 pp.
- Heron, J. 2015. Summary results of genetic barcoding of hotwater physa in Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park and Deer River Hotsprings (BC). British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia. 5 pp.
- Heron, J. pers. comm., 2015. Telephone discussion with A. Gerick. July 2015. Invertebrate Specialist, British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia.
- Lauzier, R., S.C. Davis, and J. Heron. 2011. Recovery potential assessment for Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti). DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Research Document 2011/027. vi + 28 pp.
- Lee, J.S., and J.D. Ackerman. 1999. Status of the Hotwater Physa, Physella wrighti (Te and Clarke, 1985). Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario. iii + 22 pp.
- Oasis. 2014. Liard River Hot Springs. Available online at: Liard River Hot Springs [accessed May 2015].
- Province of British Columbia. 2014. Invasive species strategic plan for BC. Available online at: IMSIWG Home [accessed May 2015].
- Province of British Columbia. 2015. Invasive species early detection and rapid response plan for BC. Available online at: IMSIWG Home [accessed May 2015].
- Salter, S.P. 2003. Invertebrates of selected thermal springs of British Columbia. Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Victoria, British Columbia. 90 pp.
- Salter, S.P. 2007. Report of population observations of Physella wrighti in Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park. Report submitted to British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia. 4 pp.
- Wethington, A.R., and C. Lydeard. 2007. A molecular phylogeny of Physidae (Gastropoda: Basommatophera) based on mitochondrial DNA sequences. Journal of Molluscan Studies 73(3):241-257.
- Wilson G. pers. comm., 2015. E-mail to M. Nantel. June 2014.Aquatic Species at Risk Specialist, British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia.
1Referred to in the forthcoming Action Plan for Hotwater Physa as “population and distribution objectives.”
2Previously referred to as “Specific Activities” in the 2007 Recovery Strategy,
4Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment.
5Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
6Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park.
7 Deer River Hotsprings.
8Salter (2003) collected specimens of snails in Deer River Hotsprings from the same family (Physidea) as HWP.
9 A method that generates a short genetic sequence (i.e., DNA barcode) from a standard part of a species’ mitochondrial genome and compares this “barcode” to those of other specimens (Heron 2015).
10Porous, calcareous rock.
11Genus of green alga, commonly referred to as muskgrass or skunkweed.
12Organic material covering submerged substrates.
13University of Alabama.
14Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
15Significant risk of wildlife conflicts led to the closure and restriction of human use of Beta Complex.
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