Monitoring the Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slipper

Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve

Monitoring the Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slipper
Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slipper
Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slipper
© Parks Canada / M. Boulianne / G 117 05 31 , 1989

In Quebec, the Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slipper ( Cypripedium passerinum ) is only to be found in one spot on James Bay and in the Mingan Archipelago. This plant, designated a threatened species by the Ministère de l'Environnement du Québec , is one of the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada's plants of interest.

From 1995 to 1997, Patrick Nantel and Danielle Cantin conducted a study aimed at enumerating the colonies of this plant, evaluating their long-term chances of survival, identifying sources of disturbance and proposing recommendations for their protection.

In 1997, the Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slipper population in the park numbered about 2440 clonal individuals (ramets), which were distributed over twelve colonies on five islands.

Individual plants were found to be almost equally distributed in the barrens and the herbaceous meadows.

Demographic forecasts for the next ten years predict a rapid rise in the meadow-dwelling plant population, and a slight diminution in that of the barrens. Colonies in the barrens are more susceptible to decline because of harsher living conditions (exposure to the wind, dryness, and cold and only a light snow cover).

In 1997, the Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slipper population in the park showed a tendency to increase by 3%. However, eight of the twelve colonies were below the minimum threshold of 35 plants necessary to their survival. Pursuant to this study, monitoring of these eight colonies was recommended on a three-year basis, with the other four colonies to be followed every five years. Monitoring on an annual basis would prove too time-consuming and might damage a fragile habitat. Monitoring the colonies was carried out as recommended. Colonies inventoried in 2000 showed a 17% decline in the number of individual plants. However, this does not necessarily demonstrate an overall tendency as only the most precarious colonies, representing less than 5% of the total population, were visited.

As this species grows in a particularly fragile milieu, your co-operation is necessary to ensure its survival. During outings, avoid walking on the barrens: stick to the vegetation-free zone on the shore. If you should see any Sparrow's-egg Lady's-slippers, move away from the area, taking care not to trample the plants. Most of them are very small and have no flower.

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