Engelmann’s Quillwort (Isoëtes engelmannii) is a perennial plant with thin, hollow leaves that are green to yellow-green in colour. Individuals within the Canadian range are among the smallest of the species and rarely exceed 20 centimetres in length. The leaves are soft, but stand-up from the base of the plant, giving them a grass-like appearance. Engelmann’s Quillwort looks very similar to other species of quillwort.
In Canada, there are two populations of Engelmann’s Quillwort, both of which occur along rivers in central Ontario. At these locations the species is usually found submerged in shallow waters, generally in areas that are relatively protected from strong currents and waves, though during the dry season it may also be found amongst boulders on wet beaches. In Ontario, it typically grows in sand or silty-sand that is atop a clay substrate. A map of the provincial distribution of Engelmann’s Quillwort is available on the Government of Ontario’s species at risk website.
There are two primary threats to the survival and recovery of Engelmann’s Quillwort in Ontario: mechanical damage (e.g., from boat traffic, strong waves or ice movement) and herbicide application (for control of aquatic vegetation or from land runoff). Engelmann’s Quillwort may also be negatively impacted by several potential threats, including nutrient enrichment, unusual fluctuating water levels, invasive species (e.g., Zebra Mussels), predators (e.g., muskrats and waterfowl), erosion and competition from other species.
Engelmann’s Quillwort is listed as endangered at both the provincial (Species at Risk in Ontario List) and federal (Schedule 1 under the Species at Risk Act) levels. Globally, it is considered to be widespread and apparently secure.
Prior to the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA or “the Act”), the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) assessed Engelmann’s Quillwort as endangered. Following this assessment, it was added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List in 2004, although the species was not regulated under the previous Endangered Species Act. The species retained its endangered status when the ESA came into force in 2008. In its future assessments, COSSARO may consider information regarding the species’ threats and trends in population and distribution gained through protection and recovery actions.
Species and habitat protection
As an endangered species, all Engelmann’s Quillwort have been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken since the ESA came into force in 2008.
In addition, the habitat of Engelmann’s Quillwort has been protected from being damaged or destroyed since 2010, when the government developed a habitat regulation for the species.
Protecting Engelmann’s Quillwort and enforcing the regulation protecting the specific habitat of the species are key components in the implementation of the ESA, and continue to be government-led actions, as identified in the government response statement. As an endangered species, all Engelmann’s Quillworts have been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken since the ESA came into force in 2008. In addition, the habitat of Engelmann’s Quillwort has been protected from being damaged or destroyed since 2010, when the government developed a habitat regulation for the species. Prior to its transition to the ESA, there was no species or habitat protection for Engelmann’s Quillwort. Further information on species and habitat protection is provided in section 2.3 of the introductory chapter of this document.
Although the ESA does not require a habitat regulation to be developed for transition
Any person who negatively impacts Engelmann’s Quillwort or its habitat without prior authorization may be prosecuted under the ESA.
A recovery strategy for Engelmann’s Quillwort was completed on February 18, 2010, which was in advance of the date required by the ESA. It represents best science advice to government. The strategy identified the habitat needs of Engelmann’s Quillwort and the threats that it faces, while recommending objectives and approaches for protecting and recovering the species. The recovery strategy also included recommendations on the areas of habitat to be considered in the development of a habitat regulation.
Government response statement
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (“the Ministry”) published the government response statement (GRS) for Engelmann’s Quillwort on November 18, 2010, which was within the timeframe required by the ESA. The GRS is government policy that contains the Government of Ontario’s goal for the recovery of Engelmann’s Quillwort.
The government's goal for the recovery of Engelmann's Quillwort is to ensure the sustainability of the populations on the Severn and Gull Rivers.
To help achieve this goal, the government leads and supports a number of recovery actions. Common actions for the government to lead as it works towards achieving a species’ recovery goal are provided in section 2.5 of the introductory chapter of this document. The GRS for Engelmann’s Quillwort also outlines four actions for which the Ministry is using a variety of methods to support others to undertake. These government-supported actions fall under the objectives identified in the GRS, which are:
- Improve understanding of the extent of each threat to Engelmann’s Quillwort and establish threat-specific mitigation techniques;
- Increase public awareness and promote stewardship of Engelmann’s Quillwort and its habitat in Ontario; and
- Improve understanding of population size and distribution, population viability, and genetic affinity to other populations.
The subsequent sections of this chapter provide a review of actions that the government has led or supported to help achieve the recovery goal for Engelmann’s Quillwort.
Supporting our partners
Supporting partners to undertake activities to protect and recover Engelmann’s Quillwort through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, as well as through permits and their associated conditions, is an important government-led action identified in the GRS for the species. No authorizations or regulatory provisions have been issued or registered for this species. Through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund the Ministry has supported a total of two complementary projects ($83,689) designed to contribute to the protection and recovery of Engelmann’s Quillwort. Both of these projects targeted multiple species at risk (including Engelmann’s Quillwort) and the partner reported that they were successful in securing additional funding and in-kind support ($35,016) from other sources. This value for additional funding and in-kind support includes the estimated values of the time and expertise provided by volunteers, which are outlined below.
The stewardship partner reported that the province’s funding support helped them to involve 26 individuals who volunteered 37 hours of their time, which has an estimated value of $1,090. The remainder of this section highlights the two projects and the government-supported recovery action that they implemented.
Species at Risk Stewardship Fund
for multi-species projects that included Engelmann's Quillwort
in additional funding and in-kind support
people received outreach
For the first project, the partner developed species at risk communications and educational materials for use by organizations and schools. In particular, the partner developed and printed a poster and brochures that identify Engelmann’s Quillwort and the other species at risk that inhabit the local landscape, while also providing advice on actions that the public can take to help protect and recover these species. As well, the partner developed a species at risk section on its website which includes a page specifically on Engelmann’s Quillwort that provides information on the biological characteristics of the species and the threats that it faces. The website directs viewers to other resources on species at risk, such as educational videos and best management practices. In addition, the partner conducted three workshops to present these communication products to members of the construction industry. This project supported the GRS action that focuses on developing communication products and tools to engage the public in stewardship activities for Engelmann’s Quillwort.
The objective of the second project was to raise awareness among residents on the biology and habitat requirements of Engelmann’s Quillwort and other local species at risk, inform residents of resources available, and encourage participation in conservation actions. The partner presented displays at four open house events and conducted 13 community workshops for various local groups and schools. Through these efforts, the partner was able to contact 810 people. As well, the partner accomplished further outreach through local news releases on species at risk and distributing resource materials through conservation networks and direct mailings. The partner also met with and provided resources to a local educators’ network to assist with integrating information on species at risk into curricula. By the end of the project’s funding period, the partner had already assisted area residents with submitting 35 reports of species at risk to the Ministry. This project also supported the GRS action to develop communication products and tools to engage the public.
Occurrences of Engelmann's Quillwort in Ontario
Natural Heritage Information Centre
Engelmann’s Quillwort was first documented in Ontario in the 1970s and has two extant (i.e., has been observed within the past 20 years) populations
Since 2008, when Engelmann’s Quillwort became protected under the ESA, the Ministry has received 40 records of the species. These records are based on observations documented between 1988 and 2005 and have come from a variety of sources. These records have helped to redefine where the species is known to occur at the two locations, and can provide additional information on the habitat and threats. Engelmann’s Quillwort has not been reported to have been discovered at any new locations. It is possible that there are observations of Engelmann’s Quillwort that have not been submitted to the Ministry. Encouraging the submission of observations of Engelmann’s Quillwort to the Ministry is included in the GRS as a government-led action.
Everyone is encouraged, or may be required by an authorization or approval, to submit observations of Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid, as well as every other species at risk, to the Ministry’s Natural Heritage Information Centre for incorporation into the provincial record of observations.
Summary of progress towards meeting the recovery goal and recommendations
Summary of progress
Progress has been made toward both government-led and government-supported actions outlined in the GRS for Engelmann’s Quillwort. As indicated in this chapter, the Government of Ontario has directly undertaken actions to: encourage submission of Engelmann’s Quillwort data to the Natural Heritage Information Centre; protect the species through the ESA and its habitat through a habitat regulation; and support partners to undertake activities to protect and recover the species. Additionally, as indicated in the introductory chapter of this document, the government has established and communicated annual priority actions for support (section 3.1); educated other agencies and planning authorities on the requirement to consider the protection of the species and its habitat (sections 3.3 and 4.4); and undertaken communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species at risk in Ontario (section 4.3).
Progress has been made toward one of the government-supported recovery objectives and the associated action that is identified in the GRS for Engelmann’s Quillwort.
Specifically, under the objective to increase public awareness and promote stewardship of Engelmann’s Quillwort and its habitat, progress has been made toward the recovery action (Action No. 2). The action was implemented through two projects supported by the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund. At the time of reporting, progress had not been made toward the other two recovery objectives for the species.
There is no recent (post 2005) information available from the provincial record of observations to indicate any change in the two populations of Engelmann’s Quillwort in Ontario, which makes it difficult to assess whether the species is exhibiting trends that are consistent with the GRS recovery goal of ensuring the sustainability of the populations on the Severn and Gull Rivers.
As stated in the GRS, the review of progress towards protecting and recovering Engelmann’s Quillwort can be used to help identify whether adjustments are needed to achieve the protection and recovery of the species. Based on progress to-date, the overall direction provided in the GRS for Engelmann’s Quillwort should continue to guide protection and recovery actions for the species, particularly for the action identified in the GRS as high priority. The following recommendation for the implementation of the GRS is suggested for moving forward with protection and recovery of Engelmann’s Quillwort:
- Actions for which progress has been limited should be supported in future implementation planning, such as identify factors negatively impacting populations and research and implement mitigation measures where necessary (Action No. 1; High Priority); identify priority sites for long-term monitoring (Action No. 3); and implement a long-term monitoring program at priority sites to determine population trends (Action No. 4). Implementing a long-term monitoring program at priority sites will provide information to assess if the species is exhibiting trends consistent with the GRS recovery goal.
Moving forward, protecting and recovering Engelmann’s Quillwort will continue to be a shared responsibility that will require the involvement of many individuals, organizations and communities. Financial support for the implementation of actions may be available through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund or the Species at Risk Research Fund for Ontario. The Ministry can also advise if any authorizations under the ESA or other legislation may be required to undertake a project. By working together, progress can continue to be made towards protecting and recovering Engelmann’s Quillwort in Ontario.
Summary of progress toward the protection and recovery of Engelmann's Quillwort in Ontario (2007 to 2014)
- Engelmann’s Quillwort is classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Prior to its transition to the ESA, Engelmann’s Quillwort was listed as endangered on the Species at Risk in Ontario List, but was not regulated under the previous Endangered Species Act. The species has been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken since 2008, and its habitat has been protected from damage or destruction since 2010.
Species-specific documents and guidance published by the government
- Recovery Strategy for the Engelmann’s Quillwort (Isoëtes engelmannii) in Ontario (2010)
- Engelmann’s Quillwort: Ontario Government Response Statement (2010)
- Engelmann's Quillwort Habitat Regulation (Ontario Regulation 242/08; 2010)
Supporting our partners
- Through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (“the Ministry”) has enabled its stewardship partners to conduct a total of two projects ($83,689) that have supported the protection and recovery of multiple species at risk, including Engelmann’s Quillwort.
- The Ministry’s support helped a stewardship partner to involve 26 individuals who volunteered 37 hours of their time toward protection and recovery activities for multiple species at risk, including Engelmann’s Quillwort. The estimated value of these voluntary contributions, as well as additional funding and in-kind support is $35,016.
- A stewardship partner reported providing public outreach on Engelmann’s Quillwort and other species at risk to 810 individuals.
- The Ministry has not issued any permits for Engelmann’s Quillwort and no activities have been registered under any ESA regulation.
Occurrences and distribution
- Two populations (Severn River and Gull River) of Engelmann’s Quillwort are known in Ontario. Since 2008 the Ministry has received 40 records of the species, all of which are based on observations from 1988 to 2005 and pertain to the two known populations.
References and related information
- Categorizing and Protecting Habitat under the Endangered Species Act
- COSEWIC. 2001. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Engelmann’s quillwort Isoëtes engelmannii in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 18 pp.
- Heydon, P.A. 2006. Environmental Variables that Affect the Distribution of Engelmann’s Quillwort. Unpublished Report. Parks Canada.
- Heydon, P.A. and K.L. Pidgen. 2005. Engelmann’s quillwort (Isoëtes engelmannii) eco logical study in the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Gull River, Ontario. Unpublished Report. Parks Canada.
- Natural Heritage Information Centre
- Ontario’s Endangered Species Act
- Ontario’s Endangered Species Act Regulation 242/08
- Ontario Recovery Strategy and Government Response Statement for Engelmann’s Quillwort
- Policy Guidance on Harm and Harass under the Endangered Species Act
- Species at Risk in Ontario List
- Species at Risk Stewardship Fund
- footnote Back to paragraph A “transition species” is a species listed under schedule 1, 3, or 4 of the ESA that has not changed in status since June 2008.
- footnote Back to paragraph A population is defined as an element occurrence which represents an area of land and/or water on/in which an element (i.e., Engelmann’s Quillwort) is or was present. They are comprised of one or more observations and the area has a practical conservation value as it is important to the conservation of the species.