Informing Future Condition Scenario Planning for Habitat Specialists of the Imperiled Pine Rockland Ecosystem of South Florida

Science Center Objects

South Florida's pine rockland ecosystem represents less than 3% of its original extent. This project will evaluate habitat conditions for two pine rockland snake species to develop future habitat condition scenarios for Species Status Assessments.

Rimrock crowned snake

Rim rock crowned snake (Tantilla oolitica)

(Public domain.)

The Science Issue and Relevance: The pine rockland ecosystem is found only in South Florida and the Bahamas and provides important habitat for numerous rare and endemic plants and animals. These include 18 species that are federally listed as threatened or endangered; four other species petitioned for listing are scheduled for Species Status Assessments (SSAs). Today, South Florida’s pine rockland ecosystem represents less than 3% of its original extent. Threats such as saltwater intrusion from hurricanes and sea-level rise pose the greatest risk to the longevity of this ecosystem.

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: This project will evaluate habitat conditions for two species commonly found in the pine rockland ecosystem: the rim rock crowned snake (Tantilla oolitica) and the key ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus acricus). These species are being considered for federal listing, and very little is known about their ecology and demography. Researchers will identify potential future changes in habitat that could result from different management actions (e.g., habitat acquisition or restoration) and environmental conditions (e.g., changes in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms and rates of sea-level rise). The potential impacts of these changes in habitat condition on the rim rock crowned snake and key ringneck snake will be explored.

Hurricane Irma satellite infrared image

In this Suomi NPP satellite infrared image from 10 September 2017, the well-defined eye of Irma is visible with strong thunderstorms around the eye. Coldest cloud tops were as cold as 190.1 Kelvin (minus 83 degrees Celsius/minus 117.4 degrees Fahrenheit)

(Public domain.)

Future Steps: The information gathered in this study can be used to develop future habitat condition scenarios in forthcoming SSAs for the rim rock crowned and key ringneck snakes. While this project focuses on these two species of snakes, the results could inform the conservation, management, and recovery of other at-risk species found in the pine rockland ecosystem. This work supports the Secretary of the Interior’s priority to create a conservation stewardship legacy by using science to identify best practices to manage land and water resource and adapt to changes in the environment.