This chapter provides a review of progress toward protection and recovery of Bent Spike-rush in Ontario from 2007 to 2015.
Bent Spike-rush (Eleocharis geniculata) is a small, green to greenish-yellow, annual sedge with multiple slender, erect stalks that grow in a tuft (i.e., a cluster). Each stalk typically grows 2 to 20 centimetres long and 0.2 to 0.5 millimetres in diameter, with a single rusty or pale brown spikelet at the tip. The spikelets are rounded or slightly pointed and are composed of at least 10 tiny flowers that produce tiny black seeds. No other tufted Canadian sedges have black seeds.
In Ontario, Bent Spike-rush has been known to occur in three separate locations: two on the shore of Lake Erie and one in Cedar Springs, two kilometres inland from Lake Erie. These populations are found on muddy or silty soils at the edge of ponds, beaches and wet meadows that flood in the early year and dry out later in the season. Bent Spike-rush exists in areas with low levels of competition where other vegetation is sparse or absent.
The main threat to the survival and recovery of the two extant populations of Bent Spike-rush is habitat degradation caused by an invasive species called the European Common Reed (Phragmites australis ssp. australis). The European Common Reed can spread quickly, forming dense stands which crowd out native wetland plants including Bent Spike-rush. The European Common Reed is known to grow more quickly in areas with increased nitrogen levels which, in areas where Bent Spike-rush is known to exist, may result from agricultural runoff.
The survival and recovery of Bent Spike-rush are influenced by other factors as well. Bent Spike-rush occurs in a very specific habitat which is limited in Ontario. The availability of sheltered shoreline sites, which the species prefers, is also highly variable year-to-year due to changes in water levels. In years with high water levels, these sites may remain underwater and therefore become unsuitable habitat for the species during that particular year; however, in years following the high water levels, competing aggressive plants will not be as prevalent. Other unknown factors may also limit the survival and recovery of Bent Spike-rush as it has a very limited occurrence, even in habitats that appear suitable for the species.
Bent Spike-rush 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 secure.
The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) assessed Bent Spike-rush as endangered. Following this assessment, it was added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List in 200In future assessments, COSSARO may consider information gained through protection and recovery actions regarding the species' threats and trends in population and distribution.
Species and habitat protection
Protecting Bent Spike-rush and its habitat are key components in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA or "the Act"), and continue to be government-led actions, as identified in the government response statement. As an endangered species, Bent Spike-rush has been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken under the ESA since it was listed in 200In addition, the species' habitat has been protected from being damaged or destroyed since 200Habitat protection for the species was initially based on the general habitat definition in the ESA. The habitat of Bent Spike-rush is now protected through a habitat regulation that came into force in 2012.
The government developed the habitat regulation (Ontario Regulation 242/08, section 24.1.1) for Bent Spike-rush. The habitat regulation provides clarity to the public and others on what areas are protected as Bent Spike-rush habitat. The regulated habitat includes areas that are required by the species to carry out its life processes (e.g., dispersal, reproduction and growth) within its range in Ontario. The habitat regulation was developed based on information regarding the habitat needs of the species as well as social and economic factors, collected from a variety of sources including comments received through public consultation. Any person who negatively impacts Bent Spike-rush or its habitat without prior authorization may be prosecuted under the ESA.
Bent Spike-rush has been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken under the Endangered Species Act since it was listed in 200/p>
In addition, the habitat of Bent Spike-rush has been protected from being damaged or destroyed since 200Habitat protection was initially based on the general habitat definition in the ESA. The habitat of Bent Spike-rush is now protected through a habitat regulation that came into force in 2012.
A recovery strategy for Bent Spike-rush was published on September 10, 2010, which was within the timeframe required by the ESA. Recovery strategies are advice to government and represent the best available scientific knowledge. The strategy identifies Bent Spike-rush habitat needs and the threats that it faces, while recommending objectives and approaches for protecting and recovering the species. The recovery strategy also includes 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 Bent Spike-rush on June 15, 2011, 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 Bent Spike-rush.
To help achieve this goal, the government leads and supports recovery actions identified in the GRS. Common actions for the government to lead as it works toward achieving a species' recovery goal are provided in section 2.5 of the Species at Risk Program Status (2008 - 2015). One specific action for the government to lead to help protect and recover Bent Spike-rush is:
Recovery GoalThe government’s goal for the recovery of the Bent Spike-rush is to prevent further loss and degradation of habitat at both locations where it occurs so that populations are maintained.
- Finalize the best management practices for the control of European Common Reed within sensitive habitats and update them as new control techniques become available.
The GRS for Bent Spike-rush also lists three actions the Ministry supports others to undertake for the species. These government-supported actions fall under the objectives identified in the GRS, which are:
- Investigate and implement options for removing and/or controlling European Common Reed at Bent Spike-rush sites that are most vulnerable to this threat;
- Inventory and map all known Bent Spike-rush populations and habitats at regular intervals to provide data on the extent and rate of change; and
- Improve knowledge of the species' biology to help inform future recovery efforts.
Supporting our partners
Supporting partners through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, as well as through permits and their associated conditions, is an important government-led action. To date, no stewardship projects have been funded and no permits have been issued for the species.
One activity that may affect Bent Spike-rush or its habitat has been registered under 'Drainage Works' (section 23.9) of Ontario Regulation 242/08. The registration requires the registered individual to comply with all conditions of the regulation, such as:
- Taking immediate steps to minimize adverse effects on the species and its habitat (e.g., establishing protective zones around habitat areas);
- Implementing the actions in a mitigation plan developed by an expert on the species (e.g., establishing protective zones around habitat areas);
- Reviewing and updating mitigation plans every five years to adjust/strengthen mitigation actions as required; and
- Preparing an annual report to record all observations of the species and describe the steps taken to minimize adverse effects on the species.
Ontario’s Invasive Species Act
The GRS for Bent Spike-rush indicates that invasive species pose a threat to the survival and recovery of the species in Ontario. The provincial Invasive Species Act, 2015 came into force on November 3, 2016 and provides an enabling framework to support the prevention, detection and control of invasive species in Ontario. This framework may support actions to reduce the threats of invasive species on native and at-risk species, including Bent Spike-rush.
Occurrences of Bent Spike-rush in Ontario
Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC)
Three populations of Bent Spike-rush have been documented in Ontario. Two of these populations occur along the shoreline of Lake Erie at Long Point National Wildlife Area and the Rondeau peninsula. The third population has been known to occur in Cedar Springs, two kilometres inland from Lake Erie. The populations
In September 2007, all three populations of Bent Spike-rush were surveyed, some of which were conducted by MNRF staff. Surveys at Long Point and Cedar Springs gathered population and habitat data for the species. At Long Point, walking surveys were used to search a series of transects in areas where the species had been known to occur as well as in areas where the species had not been observed previously. The surveys found an estimated 300 to 500 plants at Cedar Springs and 1000 to 2000 plants at Long Point ( COSEWIC, 2009). The Rondeau Provincial Park South Beach was surveyed by searching for the species on the Lake Erie shoreline as well as the shore along the Rondeau Bay. Despite survey efforts, no observations of Bent Spike-rush were made at Rondeau peninsula.
15 Observations of this species were submitted to the NHIC since 2008
Since the surveys in 2007, no observations of the Cedar Springs population have been submitted. However, the Long Point population has been observed at several locations within the Long Point area in 2013 and 2014. Records submitted have helped to redefine where the species is known and has been known to occur and have provided additional information on the species' habitat and threats. For example, recent observations have determined that the European Common Reed, an invasive plant species, is rapidly invading the habitat of Bent Spike-rush and poses a significant threat to the species.
Since 2008, 15 records of the species have been submitted to the Ministry. These records are based on observations between 1988 and 2014 and come from a variety of sources. It is possible that there are observations of Bent Spike-rush that have not been submitted to the Ministry. Encouraging the submission of observations of Bent Spike-rush 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 the Bent Spike-rush, 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 toward meeting the recovery goal
Summary of progress
Progress has been made toward the majority of government-led actions outlined in the GRS for Bent Spike-rush. The Government of Ontario has directly undertaken actions to:
- Encourage submission of Bent Spike-rush data to the Natural Heritage Information Centre;
- Protect the species through the ESA and its habitat through a habitat regulation;
- Establish and communicated annual priority actions for support;
- Educate other agencies and planning authorities on the requirement to consider the protection of the species and its habitat; and
- Undertake communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species at risk in Ontario.
The GRS also lists an action to finalize the best management practices for the control of the European Common Reed within sensitive habitats and update them as new control techniques become available. Ontario has made progress toward this action by recently publishing a set of best management practices for the control of Phragmites (also known as European Common Reed). MNRF staff and partners have also been undertaking continued efforts to control Phragmites in the Long Point area.
Limited progress has been made toward the government-supported recovery objectives for this species. In light of this, the government has completed surveys for the species which has made progress toward the action of conducting detailed mapping and surveys of known populations to provide a quantitative baseline for future monitoring. This action falls under the objective to inventory and map all known Bent Spike-rush populations and habitats at regular intervals to provide data on the extent and rate of change. Please see section 8.1 for more information on this survey work.
The recovery goal for Bent Spike-rush is to prevent further loss and degradation of habitat at both locations where it occurs so that populations are maintained. Effort made toward the government-led and government-supported GRS actions has helped to make progress toward this goal. For example, the Ministry has developed the tools necessary to prevent further loss and degradation of the habitat for the species. Specifically, the creation of best management practices to control the European Common Reed is an important step toward meeting the recovery goal for the species. However, information collected through Ontario’s Natural Heritage Information Centre as well as the lack of documented actions to address the threat of the European Common Reed at Cedar Springs and Long Point indicate that little progress has been made toward the recovery goal for Bent Spike-rush. Based on this information, work needs to be done to carry out several of the GRS actions in order to meet the recovery goal for the species.
As stated in the GRS, the review of progress toward protecting and recovering Bent Spike-rush 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 Bent Spike-rush should continue to guide protection and recovery actions for the species, particularly for those actions identified as high priority in the GRS. Relative to actions that have received a high level of support, the following actions have received support to a lesser degree and may be considered in future decisions regarding the protection and recovery of Bent Spike-rush:
- Although initial progress has been made toward surveying each known population of Bent Spike-rush, further mapping and surveying work is required in order to inform recovery actions with up-to-date information and fulfil the GRS action to conduct research to assess the reproductive and habitat needs of Bent Spike-rush and the magnitude of impacts on these factors by European Common Reed (Action No. 2).
- Actions for which progress has been limited should be supported in future implementation planning, including implementing the best management practices for European Common Reed through an adaptive management approach that assesses their impact on Bent Spike-rush in test plots prior to broader implementation (Action No. 1; High Priority); to repeat the inventory and mapping of all known populations to assess species dynamics over an extended period and response to threat-mitigation actions (Action No. 3); and conducting research to assess the reproductive and habitat needs of Bent Spike-rush and the magnitude of impacts on these factors by European Common Reed (Action No. 4).
Moving forward, protecting and recovering Bent Spike-rush 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, and 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 toward protecting and recovering Bent Spike-rush in Ontario.
Summary of progress toward the protection and recovery of Bent Spike-rush (2007 to 2015)
- Bent Spike-rush is classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Bent Spike-rush was also listed under the previous Endangered Species Act, and has retained the same status since transition to the ESA. Bent Spike-rush has been protected from being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken and its habitat has been protected from damage or destruction under the ESA since 200/li>
Species-specific documents and guidance published by the government:
- Recovery Strategy for Bent Spike-rush (2010)
- Bent Spike-rush: Ontario Government Response Statement (2011)
- Bent Spike-rush Habitat Regulation (Ontario Regulation 242/08; 2012)
Supporting human activities while ensuring appropriate support for species recovery:
- One activity has been registered for this species. The activity is registered under 'Drainage works' (section 23.9) under Ontario Regulation 242/08 of the ESA.
Occurrences and distribution:
- Three populations of Bent Spike-rush have been known to occur in southwestern Ontario, two on the shores of Lake Erie, and one in Cedar Springs, two kilometres inland from Lake Erie. Currently, two of these populations are extant and one is considered to be historical. Recent surveys have confirmed the presence of both extant populations.
- Categorizing and Protecting Habitat under the Endangered Species Act
- Invasive Phragmites – Best Management Practices 2011
- Habitat Regulation Summary for Bent Spike-rush
- 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 Bent Spike-rush
- Policy Guidance on Harm and Harass under the Endangered Species Act
- Species at Risk in Ontario List
- Species at Risk Stewardship Fund
COSEWIC. 200COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Bent Spike–rush Eleocharis geniculata, Great Lakes Plains population and Southern Mountain population, in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 30 pp.
- footnote Back to paragraph A population is defined as an area of land and/or water on/in which an element (i.e., Bent Spike-rush) 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. An element occurrence is the technical term used to describe this.
- footnote Back to paragraph A population is considered historical if it has not been recorded within the last 20 years. Historical populations may still exist, but updated information is not available.