Environmental Management

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 430-437

First online:

Predicting the Impacts of Future Sea-Level Rise on an Endangered Lagomorph

  • David H. LaFeverAffiliated withDepartment of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University
  • , Roel R. LopezAffiliated withDepartment of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University Email author 
  • , Rusty A. FeaginAffiliated withSpatial Science Laboratory, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and Department of Forest Science, Texas A&M University
  • , Nova J. SilvyAffiliated withDepartment of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University

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Human-induced global climate change presents a unique and difficult challenge to the conservation of biodiversity. Despite increasing attention on global climate change, few studies have assessed the projected impacts of sea-level rise to threatened and endangered species. Therefore, we estimated the impacts of rising sea levels on the endangered Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) across its geographic distribution under scenarios of current conditions, low (0.3-m), medium (0.6-m), and high (0.9-m) sea-level rise. We also investigated the impacts of allowing vegetation to migrate upslope and not allowing migration and of two land-use planning decisions (protection and abandonment of human-dominated areas). Not surprisingly, under all simulations we found a general trend of decreasing total potential LKMR habitat with increasing sea-level rise. Not allowing migration and protecting human-dominated areas both tended to decrease potential LKMR habitat compared with allowing migration and abandoning human-dominated areas. In conclusion, conservation strategies at multiple scales need to be implemented in order to reduce the impact of global climate change on biodiversity and endangered species. At the regional level, managers must consider land-use planning needs that take into account the needs of both humans and biodiversity. Finally, at the local scale those agencies that are in charge of endangered species conservation and ecosystem management need to rethink static approaches to conservation or else stand by and watch ecosystems degrade and species go extinct. This can be accomplished by bioclimatic reserve systems where climatically underrepresented areas are included in conservation planning along with the standard concerns of threat, opportunity, connectivity, and viability.


Climate change Lagomorph Land use planning Lower Keys marsh rabbit Sea-level rise Sylvilagus palustris hefneri