Presenter: Dr. Suresh Subedi, Arkansas Tech University
Approximately 90% of Pine Rockland habitat in south Florida and the Florida Keys, USA, has been lost, fragmented, or degraded because of urbanization or other anthropogenic disturbance. Furthermore, low-lying islands and coastal areas are experiencing sea-level rise and an increased frequency and intensity of high tide flooding, putting Pine Rockland habitats at increasing risk of ecological change. We evaluated changes in the extent of Pine Rockland habitat under future sea level rise and human scenarios for two endemic, at-risk species of snakes, the Rim Rock Crowned snake (Tantilla oolitica) and the Key Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus acrinus). We used recent and historical species records to determine their current habitat range in South Florida and estimated the extent of future habitat loss due to sea level rise and continued human development, as well as projected differences between the two species and across their habitat ranges. Our results predict that saltwater intrusion due to sea level rise as well as short-term stochastic events such as storm surge and high tides will degrade large amounts of upland Pine Rockland habitats due to saltwater intrusion. A large amount of rockland habitat (up to 47% by 2030) will be lost to development within 10 years. Therefore, immediate mitigation actions may be needed to conserve specialist species within upland habitat which are threatened by detrimental human modifications and global climate change.