The Haida Gwaii Slug (Staala gwaii) was discovered in 2003 in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and has subsequently been found also on Brooks Peninsula, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Both areas harbour unique ecosystems and contain many rare species and subspecies as a result of the glacial history of the islands. The Haida Gwaii Slug is the only known terrestrial gastropod in western North America that is a relic of pre-glaciation times and has not expanded its range outside restricted areas. This small slug with adult size of only 1 – 2 cm has a distinctive appearance. The mantle is raised into a pronounced hump, and the entire body, including the tail, neck and mantle, is covered with small, often black-tipped projections or papillae. The colour ranges from jet black to grey or tan; darker mottling is often present on the mantle. (Updated 2017/07/28)
The Haida Gwaii Slug is known from Moresby and Graham islands, the two main islands of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, and from Brooks Peninsula on northwestern Vancouver Island. In Haida Gwaii, there are records from 11 sites, which may represent six populations, three on each island. Much of the potentially suitable habitat on the islands, especially in alpine – subalpine areas and montane forests, has not been surveyed for gastropods, and additional sites and populations probably exist. (Updated 2017/07/28)
The slugs are found most commonly in open, subalpine-type habitats with krummholtz formations. The habitat is characterized by scattered stunted trees, swales of low shrubs and grasses, and near-saturated ground, often with a moss cover. The slugs also occur in higher elevation forests but have been found only sporadically in lowland forests in Haida Gwaii, where most search effort has taken place. Humid microhabitat conditions, together with coarse woody debris, rocks, or a deep moss mat that provide cover from predators and harsh conditions, are thought to be important habitat features. (Updated 2017/07/28)
The life history and habits of the Haida Gwaii Slug are poorly known. Very small, recently hatched juveniles have been found from July – September, and adults appear in the samples in autumn. The generation time is probably 1 year. The slugs are poor dispersers, as shown by their extremely patchy distribution in lowland forests in Haida Gwaii. Their patchy distribution may also be indicative of their inability to persist in areas that contain a relatively high diversity of invertebrate predators and competitors, including other gastropods. (Updated 2017/07/28)
The Haida Gwaii Slug is associated with cool, moist microhabitats and may be particularly sensitive to modifications in temperature and moisture regimes. The main threats to this species are predicted to stem from climate change and in Haida Gwaii, habitat alteration from browsing by introduced Sitka Black-tailed Deer. Logging is a threat at some sites on Graham Island. Climate change is predicted to result in habitat loss and alteration in alpine-subalpine habitats, where two-thirds of known sites for the species are located, as the tree line moves upwards. Alpine and subalpine zones in Haida Gwaii and Brooks Peninsula occur at relatively low elevations and would therefore experience rapid shrinking. Introduced deer occur throughout Haida Gwaii, including alpine-subalpine areas, and have profoundly altered understory vegetation, but their specific effects on this slug have not yet been measured. Deer browsing can decrease litter accumulation and increase exposure of the ground to sun and wind, resulting in lower humidity in micro-sites used by the slugs. Depressed abundance of terrestrial gastropods in response to ungulate browsing has been documented on small outer islands of Haida Gwaii and in northern Europe. (Updated 2017/07/28)
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
The Haida Gwaii Slug (Staala gwaii) was discovered in 2003 in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and has subsequently been found also on Brooks Peninsula, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Both areas harbour unique ecosystems and contain many rare species and subspecies as a result of the glacial history of the islands. The Haida Gwaii Slug is the only known terrestrial gastropod in western North America that is a relic of pre-glaciation times and has not expanded its range outside restricted areas. This small slug with adult size of only 1 – 2 cm has a distinctive appearance. The mantle is raised into a pronounced hump, and the entire body, including the tail, neck and mantle, is covered with small, often black-tipped projections or papillae. The colour ranges from jet black to grey or tan; darker mottling is often present on the mantle.
This small slug is a relict of unglaciated refugia on Haida Gwaii and on the Brooks Peninsula of northwestern Vancouver Island. It represents a recently described species and genus, and is found nowhere else in the world. It lives mostly in cool, moist microhabitats in the subalpine zone, but it has also been found in a few forested sites. Grazing and browsing by introduced deer on Haida Gwaii have greatly modified the species’ habitat and have probably reduced its population; this grazing is apparently increasing at higher elevations. Climate change also threatens to reduce the extent of the slug’s preferred subalpine habitat.
The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances). Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”.
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species.
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following:
Special Concern: 19
Data Deficient: 4
Not at Risk: 1
Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.
The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Endangered or Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 518 wildlife species at risk.
Please submit your comments by
March 23, 2014, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations
October 23, 2014, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.