Banks Island Alkali Grass is a rare plant found infrequently in frost-heaved, densely vegetated tundra near the shores of inland freshwater lakes. There are three known locations on Banks Island in the NWT, four in Nunavut, and one in Alaska. This species is believed to be a glacial relic and is known to occur in glacial refugia (areas that remained glacier free during the last ice age).
This species was only recently identified after genetic analyses confirmed this grass as a diploid species distinct from other arctic alkali grasses. It was first described in 2008 from field work in 2003, and other specimens were found in collections from an NWT site from 1971 and in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska from 1989.
Climate change is a possible threat to Banks Island Alkali Grass if habitats along the coastal areas of the southwestern Arctic warm, because it is a diploid, and diploid species have been shown to have a narrower tolerance to variation in habitats than polyploid species.
This species has not yet gone through the processes to assess and list species established by the Species at Risk (NWT) Act or federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), but it has been ranked by the NWT General Status Ranking Program.