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Genomic differentiation among Northern Goshawks of coastal BC

UPP023
  • Project Leaders: Darren Irwin, Bryce Bancroft, Steve Gordon
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $102,994
  • Competition: User Partnership Program
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome BC
  • Fiscal Year: 2016
  • Status: Active

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) makes recommendations to the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding which forms of wildlife are in danger of going extinct and should be listed as Threatened or Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). It is the responsibility of federal and provincial governments as well as industry to act in a way that protects listed forms. It is also the responsibility of government to create a Recovery Strategy, which identifies critical habitat and informs provincial regulations, impacting forest licenses and management options of forestry companies and forestry organizations.

 

The laingi subspecies of the Northern Goshawk, inhabiting Haida Gwaii and possibly other areas of the BC coast, has been listed as Threatened since 2000. However, its geographic range and distinctiveness from the atricapillus form of goshawk, which occurs widely over much of the rest of North America, have not been clearly established. This uncertainty generates confusion over the appropriate areas to apply goshawk conservation measures and controversy as to whether laingi should even be considered a distinct designatable unit. There are estimated to be only just over 1000 individuals of laingi in Canada, but their unclear range size causes large areas of forest to be affected by management for their benefit. Retention of breeding area reserves has significant impacts to the provincial timber supply; more than 10,000 hectares of productive, harvestable coastal forest is impacted by management of breeding areas alone, with potentially much greater impacts associated with management of foraging habitat. Estimates range up to roughly $150,000 per ha impacted, with the total impact potentially in the billions of dollars. It is imperative to focus conservation on areas that are actually inhabited by laingi and to have a clear understanding of the level of their genetic differentiation. This project has formed a user-researcher partnership to conduct a detailed analysis of genomic variation among populations of goshawks. The user partners will assist in acquisition of goshawk genetic samples and information regarding goshawk distribution, as well as distributing the results of our research findings to governmental policymakers and government and forest industry managers. More broadly, this project will demonstrate the use of genomic analysis in the identification of designatable units and their ranges for more effective conservation policy and management.