The general status evaluation system provides an initial assessment of the status of a species within a jurisdiction. An evaluated species may be put into one of nine status categories.

General Status Evaluation Process for Alberta Vertebrates

The evaluation process involves three steps:

  1. Compiling and assessing the biological attributes and indicators of each species
  2. Considering the status of the species elsewhere
  3. Assigning a general status category

These steps are described in greater detail below.

After provincial ranks are assigned, each province or territory submits their ranks and comments to be compiled into a single national rank as agreed to by the National General Status Working Group.

STEP 1: Compiling and Assessing the Biological Attributes and Indicators

In this evaluation, all relevant current data, information, and knowledge available were summarized for vertebrate, selected invertebrate, and vascular plant species in Alberta using seven key criteria as follows:

  • Distribution
  • Number of occurrences
  • Population size
  • Threats to habitat
  • Threats to population
  • Trend in distribution
  • Trend in population size

Each criterion was rated on a scale of "A" to "D," in which "A" is of the most concern and "D" the least.

Sources included:

  • Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute
  • Alberta Conservation Information Management System (ACIMS)
  • Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)
  • Databases such as the Fisheries and Wildlife Management Information System (FWMIS)
  • Observations and opinions of species specialists (both contract review and personal communications)
  • Published books and journal articles
  • Unpublished government and industry reports

The same criteria were used to rank all the species examined.

Species Ranking Form

An example of a species ranking form is provided below. The "Comments" provided with each letter code on these data sheets were important in the decision-making process because they provided information on:

  • Actual numbers
  • Actual types and levels of protection
  • Actual types and levels of threats
  • Levels of confidence
  • Reference citations in the literature
  • Search intensity

Such ranking forms were completed for each species listed in this database.

STEP 2: Considering the Status of Species Elsewhere

The biological status of a species outside of Alberta, especially in neighbouring jurisdictions, was also reviewed. This information helped to determine the proportion of the North American population for which Alberta is responsible, and may have affected the status of a species.

Status categories used included those from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and various provinces or states, as well as those prepared by Conservation Data Centres (CDCs).

Peripheral Species

It is important to identify species whose range extends only a short distance into Alberta but which have large, secure populations elsewhere. These are called "peripheral species." Peripheral species are often only at risk in the province because of small population size.

In such cases, if the Alberta population receives a high level of immigration from a healthy population in a neighbouring jurisdiction, the level of risk in Alberta may actually be lower than it appears based on population size alone.

STEP 3: Assigning a Status Category

Preliminary Assessment Process

All seven criteria in the table Criteria and Rating Scale for Ranking the General Status of All Wild Species were considered in order to place the species in one of nine status categories. For details on the status categories, see:

Species with a large number of "A" scores were at the highest risk of extinction or extirpation, and species with a large number of "D" scores were demonstrably secure.

All seven criteria are important, but depending on the species being assessed and the circumstances involved, some criteria were given greater weight than others in the final ranking. If necessary, the status category assigned to a species was modified by consideration of the "Status Elsewhere" section. For example, a peripheral species with large, healthy populations outside Alberta may have been moved from the "May Be At Risk" to the "Sensitive" category (see "B" above).

Final Assessment Process

Preliminary status assessments, including letter scores, comments and general status ranks were sent out for review by species specialists in the province. These experts included professional biologists, university researchers, naturalists, and consultants (see Acknowledgements).

The status assessment group consulted with these specialists, and their comments and suggestions were compiled. These comments were added to the summaries, and a final status category was assigned to a species.