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Sea level rise may pose conservation challenges for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow

January 12, 2023

Biodiversity conservation under a changing climate is a challenging endeavor. Landscapes are shifting as a result of climate change and sea level rise but plant communities in particular may not keep up with the pace of change. Predictive ecological models can help decision makers understand how species are likely to respond to change and then adjust management actions to align with desired future conditions. Florida’s Everglades is a wetland ecosystem that is host to many species, including a large number of endangered and endemic species. Everglades ecosystem restoration has been ongoing for decades, but consideration of sea level rise impacts in restoration planning is more recent. Incorporating potential impacts from sea level rise into restoration planning should benefit species and their coastal habitats, most notably at the southern Florida peninsula. The endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammospiza maritima mirabilis) occurs in marl prairie habitat at the southern end of the Everglades. The locations of three of its six subpopulations are proximate to the coast. We used a spatially explicit predictive model, EverSparrow, to estimate probability of sparrow presence considering both hydrologic change from restoration and sea level rise. We found that the probability of sparrow presence decreased with increasing sea level rise. Within approximately 50 years, probability of presence significantly decreased for all three coastal subpopulation areas, with areas above 40% probability increasingly limited. Given the exceptionally low dispersal ability of this species and the geographic restrictions for habitat expansion, our results highlight the importance of freshwater flow into the southern Everglades marl prairie for habitat conservation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2023
Title Sea level rise may pose conservation challenges for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2022.1085970
Authors Stephanie Romanach, Saira Haider, Allison Benscoter
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70239959
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center