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Potential effects of climate change on snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) in Florida

February 15, 2022

The snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), an endangered, wetland-dependent raptor, is highly sensitive to changes in hydrology. Climate-driven changes in water level will likely affect snail kite populations—altering reproductive success and survival rates. Identifying the mechanisms mediating the direct and indirect effects of climate on snail kite populations and the range of future climate conditions is important to the conservation of this species. When water levels are low, snail kite nest initiation and nest success decrease owing to decreased availability of their primary prey applesnails (Pomacea spp.), unstable nesting sites, and increased predator access. Dry events also lead to decreased adult and juvenile survival. In the next 80 years, temperatures and potential evapotranspiration are projected to increase in central and southern Florida. Although future precipitation volume is more uncertain, increased temperatures and evaporative loss may lead to increased frequency, duration, and severity of low-water events. Additionally, rapidly rising water levels have adverse effects on snail kite reproductive success—destroying nests, preventing access to apple snails, and reducing apple snail productivity. Finally, it is likely that future climate will favor more frequent dry conditions and extreme heavy rainfall events, both of which are directly linked to decreased reproductive success and survival. The potential effects of climate change may be buffered by the availability of alternative prey (non-native applesnails) that are more tolerant of anticipated conditions. In highly controlled southern Florida waterbodies, regional water-management decisions may buffer or exacerbate waterbody accession and recession rates.

Publication Year 2022
Title Potential effects of climate change on snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) in Florida
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211104A
Authors Marta P. Lyons, Olivia E. LeDee, Ryan Boyles
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2021-1104
Index ID ofr20211104A
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southeast Climate Science Center