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Recovery Strategy for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) in Canada [PROPOSED] – 2012
Species at Risk Act
Recovery Strategy Series
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Recovery Feasibility Summary
- 1. COSEWIC Species Assessment Information
- 2. Species Status Information
- 3. Species Information
- 4. Threats
- 5. Population and Distribution Objectives
- 6. Broad Strategies and General Approaches to Meet Objectives
- 7. Critical Habitat
- 8. Measuring Progress
- 9. Statement on Action Plans
- 10. References
- Appendix A: Areas Identified as Critical Habitat for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster
- Appendix B: Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement
Recovery Strategy for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) in Canada [PROPOSED] – 2012.
Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster
Environment Canada. 2012. Recovery Strategy for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. v + 18 pp. + appendices.
For copies of the recovery strategy, 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 (SAR) Public Registry.
Cover illustration: © Alain Richard, Attention Frag’Îles
Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Programme de rétablissement de l’aster du golfe Saint-Laurent (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) au Canada [Proposition] »
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2012. All rights reserved.
Content (excluding the illustrations) 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 the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species and are required to report on progress within five years.
The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency are the competent ministers for the recovery of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster and have prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the governments of Québec (Ministère de Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs), New Brunswick (Department of Natural Resources) and Prince Edward Island (Ministry of Environment, Energy and Forestry) as per section 39 (1) of SARA.
Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada, the Parks Canada Agency, or any other jurisdiction alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster and Canadian society as a whole.
This recovery strategy will be followed by one or more action plans that will provide information on recovery measures to be taken by Environment Canada, the Parks Canada Agency and other jurisdictions and/or organizations involved in the conservation of the species. Implementation of this strategy is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.
Vincent Carignan and Matthew Wild (Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Quebec Region) wrote this recovery strategy in collaboration with the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster recovery team (Patricia Désilets [Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs du Québec], Samara Eaton [Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Atlantic Region], Sean Blaney [Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre], Vincent Carignan, Rosemary Curley [Prince Edward Island Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry], Philip McCabe, Kirby Tulk and Eric Tremblay [Parks Canada Agency], Maureen Toner [New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources] as well as Liette Vasseur [Laurentian University]).
Many other collaborators contributed to the document: David Mazerolle (Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre), Alain Richard (Attention Frag’Îles), Karine Picard and Alain Branchaud (Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Quebec Region), Marie-José Ribeyron and Manon Dubé (Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – National Capital Region), Line Couillard and Guy Jolicoeur [Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs du Québec], Mary Lynn McCourt (PEI Dept. of Environment, Energy and Forestry), Diane Amirault-Langlais, Jennifer Stewart and Mark McGarrigle.
Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) is an annual facultative halophyte endemic to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The species occurs on wet, predominantly sandy substrates exposed to equinoctial high tides and storm waves, sheltered beaches and areas of scattered vegetation in high salt marshes. It occupies a narrow band of habitat parallel to the shoreline, limited on the one hand by the salinity of the water, winds, waves and deposition of debris or wrack and, on the other, by competition with other species less tolerant of these conditions. The species was assessed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2004 and was listed accordingly in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act in 2005.
As an annual plant that grows in a dynamic habitat, population size and area of occupancy are expected to fluctuate from year to year. Nevertheless, the total population size estimate for Canada fell from more than 4.5 million individuals in 2001 to approximately 520,000 in 2007. Twenty eight occurrences of this species have been documented in Canada, including 12 in Quebec, six in New Brunswick and ten in Prince Edward Island. Occurrences may not be detectable every year, re-establishing themselves from a seed bank that may have a 10-year viability when conditions are suitable.
The threats to Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster are habitat loss related to land management, increased erosion caused by climate change (sea level rise), artificial changes to hydrological processes, disturbances associated with recreational activities (trampling, all-terrain vehicles) and interspecific competition by exotic or invasive species.
There are unknowns regarding the feasibility of recovery of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. Nevertheless, in keeping with the precautionary principle, this recovery strategy has been prepared as per section 41(1) of SARA as would be done when recovery is determined to be feasible. This recovery strategy addresses the unknowns surrounding the feasibility of recovery.
The population and distribution objectives are to maintain and, if possible, increase the population size and the area of occupancy of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster within each of the 16 occurrences identified as priority targets, including nine in Quebec, four in New Brunswick and three in Prince Edward Island. The general strategies and approaches for achieving these objectives are defined in the section on strategic direction for recovery.
Critical habitat for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is identified in the present recovery strategy as the area of suitable habitat within 300 m of each observation point compiled between 1999 and 2009 for the 16 priority occurrences.
One or more action plans for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster will be developed within five years following the publication of the recovery strategy in the Species at Risk Public Registry.
In considering the criteria established by the Government of Canada (2009), unknowns remain as to the recovery feasibility of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. Nevertheless, in keeping with the precautionary principle, this recovery strategy has been prepared as per section 41(1) of SARA as would be done when recovery is determined to be feasible. This recovery strategy addresses the unknowns surrounding the feasibility of recovery:
1) Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance?
Yes. In the past 10 years, reproductive (flowering) individuals have been observed in most Canadian occurrences. Reintroduction has been tested in Prince Edward Island National Park since 2008.
2) Sufficient suitable habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration?
Yes. Suitable habitat has been identified in New Brunswick during field surveys (Projet Siffleur, 2004; Mazerolle, 2005). Also, the Quebec conservation plan indicates that the species’ habitat appears to be abundant in the Magdalen Islands (Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008).
3) The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside Canada) can be avoided or mitigated?
Unknown. Although it appears that the threats that pose the greatest levels of concern could be avoided or mitigated by the proposed recovery approaches, the answer to this question remains unknown, since we do not know the main cause for the steady population declines.
4) Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable timeframe?
Unknown. Since the main cause of population decline is unknown, it is currently impossible to determine if the necessary recovery techniques exist.
Date of Assessment: May 2004
Common name: Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster
Scientific name: Symphyotrichum laurentianum
Reason for designation: An annual halophyte of maritime littoral habitats endemic to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is found at nearly 30 extant sites with some very large populations, especially on the Magdalen Islands, but has a very small total area of occupancy of much less than five square kilometers. Many of the populations are subject to natural fluctuations in size and at times suffer important losses due to severe storm events. On-going impacts also exist from human recreational activities and losses of habitat due to development activities.
Occurrence: Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island
Status history: Designated Special Concern in April 1989. Status re-examined and designated as Threatened in May 2004.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is endemic to Canada (100% of the populations). The species was listed as Threatened in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (L.C. 2002, ch. 29) in July 2005. It is also listed as Threatened in Quebec according to the Act Respecting Threatened and Vulnerable Species (L.R.Q., ch. E-12.01) and Endangered in New Brunswick according to the Endangered Species Act (ch. E-9.101). It has no status on Prince Edward Island.
NatureServe (2009) gives the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster a priority conservation rank of G2 (Imperiled) for its range-wide distribution, of N2 (Imperiled) in Canada and S2 (Imperiled) in Quebec, S1 (Critically Imperiled) in New Brunswick and S1S2 (Critically Imperiled/Imperiled) in Prince Edward Island.
Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is an annual facultative halophyte, with simple or slightly branched stem, 0.1 to 40 cm high. Leaves, 1 to 10 cm long, are smooth, fleshy, sessile or subsessile, entire, eciliate, linear-lanceolate to spatulate, obtuse or acutish, often mucronate. Inflorescence with somewhat hemispherical head, 0.5 to 2 cm in diameter, with involucre composed of foliaceous phyllaries, slightly pubescent at base. Outer flowers filiform and rayless; central flowers, few, also filiform. The fruit is an achene with pappus equalling or slightly overtopping the flowers (Brumbt, 2001; COSEWIC, 2004). The first COSEWIC report (Houle, 1988) mentioned that seeds may survive for about 10 years in the seed bank. However, a recent study in Prince Edward Island indicates that the percentage of viable seeds in the persistent seed bank is practically non-existent (2%), as the majority of the seeds germinate within the first year of being produced (Kemp and Lacroix, 2004).
The Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is a species endemic to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is found only in Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (Houle and Haber, 1990; Gilbert et al., 1999; Figure 1). Since this annual plant grows in a dynamic habitat, population size and area of occupancy are expected to fluctuate from year to year. Nevertheless, a pronounced downward trend has been observed in recent years (COSEWIC, 2004) and the reasons are not fully known.
The Magdalen Islands is the only location where the species occurs in Quebec. Following the recent merge of adjoining occurrences by the Government of Quebec officials, the Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec (CDPNQ, 2011) reports 12 occurrences on the islands, including three in which no individuals have been observed between 1999 and 2009 (Table 1; Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008). In 2011, the former occurrences of Baie du Havre aux Basques – Eastern Sector, Étangs de l’Ouest and Pointe aux canots were merged into a single occurrence called Baie du Havre aux Basques (Vincent Piché, CDPNQ, personal communication). In 2002, the total population of this species in Quebec was estimated at more than 4.5 million individuals (Table 1), distributed over slightly less than 10 ha. Recent counts indicate a population of less than 520,000 individuals in 2007.
There are six known occurrences for the species in New Brunswick. The Miscou Island–lighthouse and Middle Miscou Beach occurrence incorporates records (1963, 1984) with imprecise location around the lighthouse (D. Mazerolle, pers. comm.). The Kouchibouguac–Cap Saint-Louis Warf occurrence found in the COSEWIC (2004) report does not have a supporting voucher to confirm the identity of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (S. Blaney, pers. comm.). This occurrence was only noted in 1977 during the Kouchibouguac National Park plant inventory and the habitat does not seem to correspond to preferred conditions reported in the literature (D. Mazerolle, pers. comm.). However, as a precaution, it is maintained in Table 1. In 2005, the population size of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster in New Brunswick was estimated at approximately 1,500 individuals (Table 1).
Prince Edward Island
According to the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center (ACCDC), there are ten occurrences of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster in Prince Edward Island, seven of which are located in Prince Edward Island National Park (PEI NP). Due to their close proximity, the ACCDC and PEI NP officials consider five of the occurrences (Dune Slack, East Marsh 1, East Marsh 2, Western Wetland and Grand Tracadie) as part of the same population named the Blooming Point occurrence in Table 1 (S. Blaney, pers. comm.). This recovery strategy is therefore considering a total of six occurrences in Prince Edward Island. In three of these occurrences, no individuals have been found between 1999 and 2009. The total population on Prince Edward Island was estimated at more than 30,000 individuals in 2004. In 2007, population inventories indicated that the population had decreased to less than 500 individuals.
|Occurrence name||Province||COSEWIC IDb||CDPNQ/ ACCDC|
|Baie du Havre aux Basques||QC||1,2,3||4135/ 14761/ 15762||2010||2 510 000||3 500 000||>4 000 000||500 000||21 623|
|Cap de l’Hôpital||QC||8||14759||2010||100-1 000|
|Le Barachois||QC||7||4143||2010||10 000||100 000-1 000 000|
|Bassin aux Huitres||QC||10-11-12||4142||2009||>20 000|
|Baie de la Grosse Île||QC||16||14760||2007||1-100|
|Baie Clarke||QC||15||4139||2005||1 000- 10 000||1 000-|
|Pointe de l’Est||QC||14||4138||2007||100-1000||100-1000|
|Anse aux Étangs||QC||5||4137||2001||100-1 000||100-1 000||10|
|Étang du Nord||QC||4||4136||1912||0||0||0|
|Lac aux Canards||QC||6||4144||1995||0||0||0|
|Windsors Malbaie||NB||2||1048834/ 1048835||2006||>1 000||2 400|
|Tracadie – Val Comeau||NB||3||1048837||2005||100||1 000||15||12||0|
|Kouchibouguac – Lac-à-Exilda||NB||5||1048836||2000||1 000-2 000||0||0||0|
|Kouchibouguac – Barachois||NB||6||174551||2004||4||0||0||0|
|Kouchibouguac – Cape Saint-Louis Warf||NB||4||1048849||1977|
|Miscou Island – Lighthouse and Middle Miscou Beach||NB||1||1048832||1984|
|Blooming Pointc *||PEI||4,5,6,7||1048845/ 1048846/ 1048847/ 1048848||2009||117 600||160 000||46 489||12 000-|
|Covehead Pond (Cape Stanhope)||PEI||1||1049102||2005||174||123||10||15|
|Long Pond (Dalvay)||PEI||2||1048842||1993||0||0||0|
|Occurrence name||Province||COSEWIC IDb||CDPNQ/ ACCDC|
|Baie du Havre aux Basques||QC||1,2,3||4135/ 14761/ 15762||2010||1 500 500||603 400||506 000|
|Cap de l’Hôpital||QC||8||14759||2010||1 500||266||200||NA|
|Le Barachois||QC||7||4143||2010||100 000||1 000||10 000||>6 500|
|Bassin aux Huitres||QC||10-11-12||4142||2009||> 1000||55 000||100-500||>2000|
|Baie de la Grosse Île||QC||16||14760||2007||10 000–|
|Baie Clarke||QC||15||4139||2005||1 000||1 000||0|
|Pointe de l’Est||QC||14||4138||2007||3 000||10|
|Anse aux Étangs||QC||5||4137||2001||0|
|Étang du Nord||QC||4||4136||1912|
|Lac aux Canards||QC||6||4144||1995|
|Windsors Malbaie||NB||2||1048834/ 1048835||2006||300||15||40|
|Tracadie – Val Comeau||NB||3||1048837||2005||0||1 500|
|Kouchibouguac – Lac-à-Exilda||NB||5||1048836||2000||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kouchibouguac – Barachois||NB||6||174551||2004||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kouchibouguac – Cape Saint-Louis Warf||NB||4||1048849||1977||0|
|Miscou Island – Lighthouse and Middle Miscou Beach||NB||1||1048832||1984|
|Blooming Pointc *||PEI||4,5,6,7||1048845/ 1048846/ 1048847/ 1048848||2009||31 000-|
|3 000||482||0||128 d|
|Covehead Pond (Cape Stanhope)||PEI||1||1049102||2005||15||0||0||0||0||0|
|Long Pond (Dalvay)||PEI||2||1048842||1993||0|
The occurrences in bold are considered as priority targets occurrences in the population and distribution objectives. The occurrence followed by an asterisk is a target for reintroduction
a The data was compiled using CDPNQ, ACCDC, and COSEWIC (2004) data and expert knowledge (see section 3.2 for details).
b Numbers assigned to the occurrences in COSEWIC (2004)
c Blooming Point includes the five following occurrences: Dune Slack, East Marsh 1, East Marsh 2, Western Wetland and Grand Tracadie
d In 2008, plants were reintroduced at East Marsh (1 and 2) and the Dune Slack. In 2009, 128 individuals were located near the sites of reintroduced plants at East Marsh (1 and 2). In June of 2009, 413 individuals were counted around the transplants at the Dune Slack (D. Mazerolle, pers. Comm.) but 0 individuals were counted in September by Atkinson (2010).
The Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is a pioneer annual plant of littoral habitats that occurs on wet, predominantly sandy substrates exposed to equinoctial high tides and storm waves, sheltered beaches and areas of scattered vegetation in high salt marshes (Gagnon et al., 1995a,b). The dynamic nature of littoral habitats combined with the dispersal capabilities of the species results in a high interannual variability in the population size and area of occupancy of the species.
Suitable habitat for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is situated near sea level on open and slightly sloping ground (Gilbert et al., 1999) exposed to full light (Reynolds et al., 2001; Houle et al., 2002). The species occupies a narrow band parallel to the shoreline, limited on the one hand by the salinity of the water, winds, waves and deposition of debris or wrack and, on the other hand, by competition with other species less tolerant of these conditions (Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008). Substrate particle size appears to be of little importance since this aster occurs on fine sand, coarse sand, gravel and clay (Houle, 1988). The average pH of the substrate ranges from 5.5 to 6.9 (COSEWIC, 2004).
Hydrology and moisture conditions are also important. For example, water availability during bud differentiation appears to be critical, with drought conditions causing reproductive failure, making populations potentially susceptible to local extinction (Houle and Belleau, 2000).
The salinity of the substrate is also a limiting factor in the distribution of Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Reynolds and Houle, 2002). Seed germination is inhibited by salinity greater than 20 g salt/L (Houle et al., 2001 and 2002; Reynolds et al., 2001). The salinity of the substrate also has a significant negative effect on the emergence of the seedlings. Salinity as low as 1‰ reduce emergence by a third. The growth of the plants is significantly reduced by a salinity of 10 to 40‰. However, the number of inflorescences per plant does not appear to be affected by salinity. Therefore, in the stages following emergence and establishment, the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster has a great tolerance to high salinity (COSEWIC, 2004).
Boudreau and Houle (1998) and Houle et al. (2002) have demonstrated that interspecific competition plays a significant role in the population dynamics of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. When competition is eliminated, it becomes more abundant, particularly in the upper portion of the topographic gradient, where abiotic conditions are less limiting (e.g. lower salinity and reduced exposure to waves and accumulations of eelgrass debris and sand). Similarly, the overall reproductive success of the plants (number of fruits produced) increases when interspecific competition is absent. Competition associated with natural vegetation succession could reduce the quality of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster habitat by causing vegetation canopy closure and a reduction in available light for the species (Houle et al., 2002; Houle and Valéry, 2003).
|Threat||Level of Concern1||Extent||Occurrence||Frequency||Severity2||Causal|
|Habitat loss or degradation|
|Land management||High||Generalized||Historical / |
|Climate and natural disasters|
|Increased erosion caused by climate change (sea level rise)||High||Generalized||Current||Continuous||Medium||High|
|Changes in ecological dynamics or natural processes|
|Artificial changes in hydrological processes||Medium||Localized||Historical / |
|Disturbance or harm|
|Alien, invasive or introduced species or genome|
1 Level of Concern: signifies that managing the threat is of (high, medium or low) concern for the recovery of the species, consistent with the population and distribution objectives. This criterion considers the assessment of all the information in the table).
2 Severity: reflects the population-level effect (High: very large population-level effect, Moderate, Low, Unknown).
3 Causal certainty: reflects the degree of evidence that is known for the threat (High: available evidence strongly links the threat to stresses on population viability; Medium: there is a correlation between the threat and population viability e.g. expert opinion; Low: the threat is assumed or plausible).
4 Each threat assessment criterion is evaluated in terms of each occurrence and for the entire range. Two qualifiers in a box indicate that the identified threat does not have the same impact for each qualifier (Single occurrence / Entire range).
Known threats are listed below according to a decreasing level of concern.
Land management such as residential development and construction of roads, jetties, beach boardwalks or paths, as well as infilling and dredging operations can change or even completely destroy the species habitat. Land management is believed to have impacted several occurrences in the past. In Prince Edward Island, the population at Brackley disappeared following wetland infilling (COSEWIC, 2004).
Increased erosion caused by climate change (sea level rise)
Wave action and storms are a natural part of the dynamic habitat colonized by the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster and have both beneficial and detrimental effects on its presence. Major storms and extreme high tides result in the direct loss of habitat due to flooding, increased erosion and a larger accumulation of sand and eelgrass (Zostera marina) debris (wrack) which can affect the growth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. For example, two populations in Kouchibouguac National Park (New Brunswick) have not been seen again since a storm in 2000 (COSEWIC, 2004). Climate change could exacerbate this process by causing rising sea levels and more frequent storms. The significant erosion and higher water level in the lagoons observed in the Magdalen Islands suggest that these changes have already taken place (Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008).
Artificial changes in hydrological processes
Artificial changes in saltwater levels or circulation patterns (permanent opening or closing of a lagoon, etc.) can affect the viability of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster occurrences by altering the disturbance cycle needed to maintain its habitat. This situation has occurred, for example, at Bassin aux Huîtres (Magdalen Islands) where water circulation was modified after the entrance to the lagoon was moved (COSEWIC, 2004).
All terrain vehicule (ATV) traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster habitat leads to the direct destruction of individuals. ATV tracks have been observed in several occurrences in Quebec, including Barachois, Baie de la Grosse Île, Baie Clarke, Pointe de l’Est and Bassin aux Huîtres (Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008). This activity also appears to be a problem in Kouchibouguac National Park (New Brunswick; Dietz and Chiasson, 2001). However, ATVs may also have a temporary beneficial effect by exposing substrate, thereby creating suitable habitat for seed germination. Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster has occasionally been observed growing in ATV tracks in Quebec (COSEWIC, 2004). However, in the long term, the plant communities in these disturbed environments are modified, which could adversely affect the species by increasing the level of competition (Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008). In addition, ATV traffic leads to soil compaction and weakening of the dunes that shelter the species.
Trampling associated with recreational activities, hunting and fishing can also destroy Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster individuals. In its conservation plan for the occurrences in the province, Quebec’s Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (Department of sustainable development, environment and parks) identified these activities as threats for the occurrences of Baie du Havre aux Basques, Cap de l’Hôpital, Bassin aux Huîtres and Barachois (Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008).
Research has shown that interspecific competition restricts the distribution of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Houle et al., 2002; Houle and Valéry, 2003). Brass Buttons (Cotula coronopifolia), a potentially invasive exotic species, and Rayless Alkali Aster, a close relative of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster, are of particular concern (NBDNR, 2007). The competition caused by these species could reduce the quality of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster habitat by causing vegetation canopy closure and a reduction in available light for the species. Brass Buttons is present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster occurrences in the Magdalen Islands (Couillard and Jolicoeur, 2008) and Rayless Alkali Aster has been observed in coastal habitats in New Brunswick (NBDNR, 2007) and Prince Edward Island (C. Lacroix, pers. comm.).
The population and distribution objectives for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster are to maintain and, if possible, increase the number of individuals and area of occupancy within each of the 16 occurrences identified as priority targets, including nine occurrences in Quebec, four in New Brunswick and three in Prince Edward Island. Since the species can show large fluctuations in the number of individuals and area of occupancy over a short period of time depending on the occurrence and extent of natural disturbances, the objectives should be considered over a period exceeding the presumed seed bank viability (≥10 years).
The priority targets for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster were selected based on the following criteria:
1) At least one individual has been observed between 1999 and 2009. This criterion indicates that the species has occupied the habitat in a time period that is shorter than the known seed bank viability and may produce seeds to perpetuate its presence on the site. As the habitat exceeds 10 years without the presence of the species, it becomes less probable that the species will re-establish itself there. This resulted in the selection of 16 occurrences (marked in bold in Table 1);
2) the quality of the available habitat offers a potential to reintroduce the species or to increase the number of individuals. This resulted in the selection of one occurrence (Blooming Point; marked by an asterisk in Table 1) but no additional occurrences comparatively to criterion 1.
Criterion 2 was only applied to the Blooming Point occurrence in Prince Edward Island National Park following the desire of the Parks Canada Agency to continue implementing this measure. According to Atkinson (2010), the suitable habitat for reintroduction may be limited in the three other occurrences within PEI National Park (Covehead Pond, Long Pond and Campbell Pond) however, frequent storms and other environmental factors may modify predominant habitat characteristics such that suitable locations for reintroduction may change over time. The Quebec Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster recovery plan identifies the need to study the population dynamics of the species before identifying targets for reintroducing the species in certain occurrences and New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources would consider translocation premature in the absence of the results of current efforts on Prince Edward Island and the availability of suitable habitat over the long-term.
The eight occurrences that were not selected as priority targets have no individuals reported in the past ten years. Depending on the evolution of the species’ population trends and environmental factors that may modify habitat characteristics, some of these occurrences may become priority targets in the future. The population and distribution objectives can be modified accordingly in an amended or revised recovery strategy.
In Quebec, three locations (grouping five occurrences) have been designated as Plant habitat according to section 17 of the Act Respecting Threatened and Vulnerable Species : Baie-du-Havre-aux-Basques, Barachois-de-Fatima and Bassin-aux-Huîtres. Three other occurrences are located within the Pointe-de-l’Est Wildlife Reserve and are protected under the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife (R.S.Q., c. C−61.1). ATVs are prohibited on beaches, offshore bars, marshes and swamps of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and on dunes in the Magdalen Islands and are permitted only on designated trails developed in accordance with the Environment Quality Act (Regulation respecting motor vehicle traffic in certain fragile environments) (c. Q-2, r. 9).
In New Brunswick, three occurrences have been reported in Kouchibouguac National Park. In Prince Edward Island, five of the six occurrences of the province are located in Prince Edward Island National Park. These occurrences are protected under the Canada National Parks Act, section 6.1(L.C. 2000, c. 32) and the provincial Endangered Species Act.
In Quebec, population monitoring activities, awareness-raising activities aimed at residents, visitors and school groups, as well as efforts to establish conservation agreements are being carried out by conservation organizations (Attention Frag’Îles, Société de conservation des Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Comité de développement touristique de l’Est des Îles).
In New Brunswick, stewardship projects have also been initiated by the Irving Eco-Center – Dune de Bouctouche as well as Nature NB’s Piper Project. In 2005, Irving Eco-Center Irving – Dune de Bouctouche, organized a meeting for researchers, governmental representatives and other concerned individuals in order to discuss conservation efforts for this and other species at risk.
Research and monitoring
For several years, the laboratories of Dr. Christian Lacroix at the University of Prince Edward Island, Dr. Gilles Houle (now retired) at Laval University and Dr. Liette Vasseur at the Laurentian University have been conducting research on various components of the biology and ecology of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. Their research has provided important information on several issues, including the extent and viability of the seed bank (Kemp and Lacroix, 2004), seed germination potential and morphology (Stewart and Lacroix, 2001), the effects of different environmental variables on development (Reynolds et al., 2001; Houle and Valéry, 2003), and the effect of salinity on distribution (Reynolds and Houle, 2002). In Prince-Edward Island National Park, green house grown seedlings have been transplanted successfully (Atkinson, 2010). The province also plans to monitor the historic Tignish occurrence (R. Curley, pers. comm.).
Monitoring protocols have been developed by Québec and New Brunswick, and a common approach was agreed to at the meeting at the Irving Eco-Centre in 2005.
In New Brunswick, two local organizations have been involved to date in stewardship programs and searches for potential habitat and new occurrences: the Irving Eco Centre – Dune de Bouctouche and the Piper Project, a project of Nature NB (NBDNR, 2007). Seeds from two occurrences have been collected and are being stored at Acadia University (Nova Scotia) and Irving Research Nursery (Sussex, New Brunswick) pending future restoration work (NBDNR, 2007).
The Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is typically found in habitats that remain relatively wet throughout the growing season. The species generally grows on sites affording some protection from the full force of onshore wind and waves, at elevations just above the mean high tide level, where it is only flooded during extreme tides and storm events.
Inter-specific competition plays a major role in limiting Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster’s establishment and growth. Therefore, the species generally colonizes relatively bare substrates where competing vegetation is sparse to absent. In fact, the species typically grows within openings in the vegetation, at micro-sites opened through animal activity, storm disturbance or wrack deposits.
The biophysical attributes of critical habitat described above can be found in three habitat types:
- salt marshes
- the species grows on the edges of these marshes which are characterized by salt or brackish water and where vegetation cover is dominated by halophytes (e.g. Pacific SilverweedPotentilla egedei, Prairie Bulrush Bolboschoenus maritimus,Common Three-Square Schoenoplectus pungens, Smooth Cordgrass Spartina alterniflora, Spearscale Atriplex hastata, Baltic Rush Juncus balticus, Seashore Dock Rumex maritimus);
- suitable habitat corresponds to the area between the mean high tide level and the spring high tide level;
- dune slacks
- the species grows in interdunal hollows;
- suitable habitat corresponds to the area between the mean high tide levels on each side of the dune slacks;
- sand/mud flats
- the species grows on these flat areas where there is no defined drainage pattern;
- suitable habitat corresponds to the area between the mean high tide level on the ocean side and the mean high tide level on the bay, lagoon or pond side.
Critical habitat for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is identified in the present recovery strategy as the area of suitable habitat within 300 m of each observation point compiled between 1999 and 2009 for the 16 priority occurrences. When the 300 m surrounding adjacent observation points overlap, they merge in a single continuous area containing suitable habitat.
The distance of 300 m is based on studies that examined the edge effects of land-use activities that may affect the availability of resources and population growth of many plant species (see Henderson, 2010). The results of these studies, combined with the annual variability of the area occupied by the species and the number of individuals in each occurrence justify, in keeping with the precautionary principle, that critical habitat should extend 300 m out from each observation point. If necessary, studies could be conducted to refine this distance in the specific case of the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence Aster (see Table 3).
Observation points were noted during fieldwork carried out between 1999 and 2009, where a GPS coordinate was recorded for each individual or clump of individuals (1 to several thousands). In the 16 priority occurrences, 107 observation points have been compiled, including 91 in Quebec, six in New Brunswick and 10 in Prince Edward Island (Appendix A).
Critical habitat for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster can be destroyed by three main mechanisms resulting from anthropogenic activities:
Habitat conversion (direct loss). Residential construction, construction of roads or any other infrastructure as well as dredging and infilling of coastal wetlands result in direct habitat loss.
Changes in saltwater levels or circulation. The filling, moving or closing of the mouths of lagoons affect water circulation and can change water levels or salinity, important components that determine the ecological niche of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. These activities can also affect the degree of exposure of occurrences to disturbance events (waves, storms, deposition of debris or wrack), which are essential to limit interspecific competition, but can destroy occurrences at high levels of exposure.
Substrate disturbance/loss of natural protective structures. Trampling and ATV traffic lead to loss of vegetation cover, weakening, and in the longer term, erosion of dunes, thereby reducing the protection from waves and wind afforded by the dunes for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. Although trampling and ATV traffic can, up to a certain point, promote establishment of the aster by exposing the substrate and eliminating competing vegetation, these activities are generally so intensive that they result in the negative impacts described above.
These examples do not represent an exhaustive list of the activities likely to destroy the critical habitat of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster.
The performance indicator presented below provides a way to define and measure progress in achieving the population and distribution objectives. Successful implementation of this recovery strategy will be assessed every five years based on the following performance indicator:
- The mean number of individuals of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is maintained or increased within each of the 16 occurrences identified as priority targets over a period exceeding the seed bank viability (≥ 10 years);
- The mean area of occupancy of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is maintained or increased at each of the 16 occurrences identified as priority targets over a period exceeding the seed bank viability (≥ 10 years).
One or more action plans for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster will be developed within five years of the recovery strategy’s having been posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry.
Atkinson, K-L. 2010. Initiating recovery strategies for the Gulf of Saint Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) on Prince Edward Island and assessment of its reproductive abilities. Master’s Thesis. University of Prince Edward Island.
Boudreau, S., and G. Houle. 1998. Écologie de l'aster du Saint Laurent (Aster laurentianus Fernald) aux Îles de la Madeleine, Québec. Government of Quebec, Department of the Environment and Wildlife, Conservation and Ecological Heritage Branch, Quebec. 20 pp.
Brumbt, C.P. 2001. Évaluation de l’importance de la compétition interspécifique pour la lumière sur la répartition locale et sur la performance de l’aster du Saint-Laurent (Aster laurentianus Fernald) aux Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Québec. Master’s Thesis. Laval University, Quebec.
COSEWIC. 2004. COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 39 pp.
Couillard, L., and G. Jolicoeur. 2008. Plan de conservation de l’aster du Saint-Laurent (Symphyotrichum laurentianum): Espèce menacée au Québec. Quebec Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks. Ecological Heritage and Parks Branch, Quebec. 16 pp.
Dietz, S., and R. Chiasson. 2001. Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) management and monitoring plan. Kouchibouguac National Park. March 2001. Piper Project. 27 pp.
Gagnon, J., G. Lavoie, G. Jolicoeur and F. Boudreau. 1995a. Les plantes susceptibles d'être désignées menacées ou vulnérables de l'Île-de-l'Est, Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Government of Quebec, Department of the Environment and Wildlife, Conservation and Ecological Heritage Branch, Quebec. 33 pp.
Gagnon, J., G. Lavoie, G. Jolicoeur and F. Boudreau. 1995b. Les plantes susceptibles d'être désignées menacées ou vulnérables de la lagune du Havre-aux-Basques, Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Government of Quebec, Department of the Environment and Wildlife, Conservation and Ecological Heritage Branch, Quebec. 25 pp.
Gilbert, H., J. Labrecque and J. Gagnon. 1999. La situation de l’aster du Saint-Laurent (Aster laurentianus, syn.: Symphyotrichum laurentianum) au Canada. Government of Quebec, Department of the Environment, Conservation and Ecological Heritage Branch, Quebec. 34 pp.
Government of Canada. 2009. Species at Risk Act Policies, General Policy Framework [Draft]. Species at Risk Act, Policies and Guidelines Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa, 38 p.
Henderson, D.C. 2010. Set-back distance and timing restriction guidelines for prairie plant species at risk. Internal report. Environment Canada, Prairie and Northern Region, Canadian Wildlife Service. Edmonton AB.
Hinds, H.R. 1986. Flora of New Brunswick. Primrose Press, Fredericton. 460 pp.
Houle, F. 1988. Status report on Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Aster laurentianus Fernald), a rare species in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), Ottawa. 21 pp.
Houle, F., and E. Haber. 1990. Status of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster, Aster laurentianus (Asteraceae), in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 104: 455-459.
Houle, F., and A. Legault. 1986. Aster laurentianus Fern. and its habitat in Prince Edward Island National Park. Parks Canada, Halifax. Contract No. 86/87-50.
Houle, G., and A. Belleau. 2000. The effects of drought and waterlogging conditions on the performance of an endemic annual plant, Aster laurentianus. Can. J. Bot. 78: 40-46.
Houle, G., C.P. Brumbt and C.E. Reynolds. 2002. Écologie de l'aster du Saint Laurent, Aster laurentianus Fernald, aux Îles de la Madeleine. Research Report of the Department of Biology, Laval University, Quebec. March 2002. 35 pp. + tables and figures.
Houle, G., L. Morel, C.E. Reynolds and J. Siégel. 2001. The effect of salinity on different developmental stages of an endemic annual, Aster laurentianus (Asteraceae). Am. J. Bot. 88: 62-67.
Houle, G., and S. Valéry. 2003. A mixed strategy in the annual endemic Aster laurentianus (Asteraceae) – A stress-tolerant, yet opportunistic species. Am. J. Bot. 90: 278-283.
Kemp, J.F., and C.R. Lacroix. 2004. Estimation of seed bank and seed viability of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence Aster, Symphyotrichum laurentianum (Fernald) Nesom. Canadian Field-Naturalist 118: 105-110.
Labrecque, J., and G. Lavoie. 2002. Les plantes vasculaires menacées ou vulnérables du Québec. Government of Quebec, Department of Environment, Ecological Heritage and Sustainable Development Branch, Quebec. 200 pp.
Mazerolle, D.M. 2005. Status of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentiannum) in new Brunswick and report on the 2005 Irving Eco-center Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster project. Irving Eco-center, Saint-Édouard-de-Kent, New Brunswick. 57 pp.
NatureServe. 2009. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. (Accessed: September 4, 2009 ).
New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources (NBDNR). 2007. Recovery strategy for the St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianum) in New Brunswick, Canada. New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, Fredericton, New Brunswick, vi + 23 pp.
Projet Siffleur. 2004. Vérification 2004 - Marais de la Péninsule acadienne : Aster du Golfe St-Laurent.
Reynolds, C.E., and G. Houle. 2002. Mantel and partial Mantel tests suggest some factors that may control local distribution of Aster laurentianus at Îles de la Madeleine, Quebec. Plant Ecology 164: 19-27.
Reynolds, C.E., G. Houle and C. Marquis. 2001. Light and salinity affect growth of the salt marsh plant Aster laurentianus. New Phytologist 149: 441-448.
|Latitude||Longitude||Survey period||Area (ha)||Land tenure|
|Cap de l’hôpital||QC||14759||1||47.418000||−61.898900||1999-2007||44.4||Non federal|
|Baie de la Grosse Île||QC||14760||1||47.621100||−61.543300||2001-2007||80.7||Non federal|
|Baie du Havre aux Basques||QC||4135||1||47.265600||−61.976500||1999-2007||704.5||Non federal (partial Provincial Plant habitat)|
|Anse aux Étangs||QC||4137||1||47.344000||−61.925900||1999-2004||28.1||Non federal|
|Pointe de l’Est||QC||4138||1||47.619960||−61.391030||1999-2007||56.3||Non federal (Provincial wildlife reserve)/Federal (National Wildlife Reserve)|
|Baie Clarke||QC||4139||1||47.622600||−61.472800||1999-2007||34.2||Non federal|
|Bassin aux Huîtres||QC||4142||1||47.543500||−61.531100||1999-2007||141.7||Non federal (Provincial Plant habitat)|
|Old Harry||QC||4140||1||47.573658||−61.475654||1999-2001||58.2||Non federal|
|Le Barachois||QC||4143||1||47.419563||−61.865946||1999-2007||81.1||Non federal (Provincial Plant habitat)|
|Kouchibouguac –Lac-à-Exilda||NB||1048836||1||46.927920||−64.883707||2000-2006||32.9||Federal (National Park)|
|Kouchibouguac-Barachois||NB||174551||1||46.899576||−64.899011||2000-2010||28.2||Federal (National Park)|
|Tracadie-Val Comeau||NB||1048837||1||47.441986||−64.886610||1999-2008||28.2||Non federal|
|1||46.413533||−63.022305||1999-2009||109.3||Federal (National Park)|
|Campbell’s Pond||PEI||1049113||1||46.409186||−63.055647||1999-2009||64.9||Federal (National Park)|
|Covehead Pond||PEI||1049102||1||46.430365||−63.152076||2000-2009||31.9||Federal (National Park)|
Figure A-1. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Cap de l’Hôpital occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-2. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Baie de la Grosse île occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-3. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Baie du Havre aux Basques occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-4. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Anse aux Étangs occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-5. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Pointe de l’Est occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-6. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Baie Clarke occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-7. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Bassin aux Huitres occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-8. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Old Harry occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-9. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Le Barachois occurrence in Quebec.
Figure A-10. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Windsors Malbaie occurrence in New Brunswick.
Figure A-11. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Kouchibouguac – Lac-à-Exilda occurrence in New Brunswick.
Figure A-12. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Kouchibouguac – Barachois occurrence in New Brunswick.
Figure A-13. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Tracadie-Val Comeau occurrence in New Brunswick.
Figure A-14. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Blooming Point occurrence in Prince Edward Island.
Figure A-15. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Campbell’s Pond occurrence in Prince Edward Island.
Figure A-16. Location of the area containing critical habitat at the Covehead Pond occurrence in Prince Edward Island.
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.
Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.
This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects as recommended approaches to recovery focus on non-intrusive activities such as monitoring and public awareness.
The recovery activities proposed in this document should have positive effects on non-targeted species, natural communities or ecological processes. Other rare plant species are frequently associated with the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster, including Marsh Feltwort (Lomatogonium rotatum: rare in New Brunswick according to Hinds, 1983), Golden Dock (Rumex persicarioides: rare in New Brunswick according to Hinds, 1983), Connecticut Beggarticks (Bidens heterodoxa: likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Quebec, according to Labrecque and Lavoie, 2002) and Gaspé Arrowgrass (Triglochin gaspensis: likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Quebec, according to Labrecque and Lavoie, 2002) (COSEWIC, 2004). These other rare species could therefore benefit from increased habitat protection.
1 An area of land and/or water in which a species or natural community is, or was, present (NatureServe, 2002).
2 Each observation point represents one or several individuals in an occurrence.
3 Halophyte: A species associated with salt habitats.
4 Lanceolate : Spear-shaped
5 Mucronate: terminating in a sharp, stiff point called a mucron.
6 Involucre: series of imbricated bracts at the base of an inflorescence.
7 Foliaceous phyllaries: leaf-like involucral bracts subtending the flower head of a composite plant
8 Pappus: small egret attached to the seeds of certain species of plants, facilitating their dispersal by wind.
9 This 10-year period was chosen by the recovery team when the production of the recovery strategy began.
- Date Modified: