Prepared by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Adoption of the Recovery Strategy for the American Water-willow (Justicia americana) in Canada (Parks Canada Agency 2011).

The Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) requires the Minister of Natural Resources to ensure recovery strategies are prepared for all species listed as endangered or threatened on the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List. Under the ESA, a recovery strategy may incorporate all or part of an existing plan that relates to the species.

American Water-willow (Justicia americana) is listed as threatened on the SARO List. The species is also listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Parks Canada Agency prepared the Recovery Strategy for the American Water-willow in Canada in 2011 to meet their requirements under the SARA. This recovery strategy is hereby adopted under the ESA. With the additions indicated below, the enclosed strategy meets all of the content requirements outlined in the ESA.

Section 2.4 of the federal recovery strategy provides an identification of critical habitat (as defined under the SARA). Identification of critical habitat is not a component of a recovery strategy prepared under the ESA. However, it is recommended that the areas of critical habitat identified in Section 2.4 be considered when developing a habitat regulation under the ESA.

Executive summary

Prepared by Parks Canada Agency

In May 2000, the American Water-willow (Justicia americana) was determined to be a Threatened species in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). It was added to Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act in June 2003 by the Minister of the Environment upon recommendation from COSEWIC. The range of this species is confined to eastern North America, with its northern limit in Canada being restricted to southern Quebec and southern Ontario.

The American Water-willow is an aquatic plant inhabiting the shorelines of lakes and rivers. In Canada, the large majority of the species' population is located at one site: Rivière des Mille Îles in Quebec. Eighteen of the species' 28 known occurrences in Canada are either historical or extirpated. Its current range in Canada has been impacted primarily by the loss of habitat resulting from the dredging of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Quebec and possibly by fluctuations in the Lake Erie water levels in Ontario.

There are a number of gaps in knowledge concerning the American Water-willow - in particular, its general ecology and an absence of studies on Canada’s populations and their genetic and reproductive characteristics. Little is known about the species' presence at other potential sites located between Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River. The major threats to the plant are linked with changes in water regime (water level fluctuations), loss of habitat through erosion and infilling and, at some sites, alien invasive plants and trampling.

The limited number of confirmed extant sites (three in Quebec and seven in Ontario), combined with the small area occupied by some American Water-willow populations, justifies the implementation of recovery measures. One or more action plans will be completed by January 2016.

The population and distribution objective is to maintain (and if possible increase) the current number of individuals within existing populations, the actual number of locations (10) and to prevent the decline in the quality of habitat. This objective will be achieved by conserving the existing populations at all the sites where the species is already found, in order to ensure the survival of the greatest number of individuals possible and also possibly by increasing the number of individuals at these known sites. For effective long term management, it is vital to identify demographic trends, which in turn will entail monitoring the main populations over a period of several years.

Based upon the best available information, the present recovery strategy provides an identification of the species' critical habitat for 17 critical habitat parcels at 10 locations.