GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The leatherback turtle, elkhorn corals, and flatwoods salamander have been identified as three of America’s top endangered wildlife, birds, fish and plants impacted by global warming in a new report released last week. The report, America’s Hottest Species, demonstrates ways that our changing climate is increasing the risk of extinction for species around the United States.
"Global warming is like a bulldozer shoving species, already on the brink of extinction, perilously closer to the edge of existence," said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. "Polar bears, lynx, salmon, coral and many other endangered species are already feeling the heat. The species in this report are representative of all imperiled wildlife, plants and fish that are now facing an additional compounding threat to their survival and why we need to take action today to protect them."
To help protect and restore endangered species, she said, our nation must address the current impacts of climate change and clean up the sources of global warming pollution. America’s Hottest Species calls for dramatic action from Congress and the Obama Administration.
Florida’s small population of leatherbacks is very much at risk from the physical and chemical impacts of climate change. "As shifts occur in currents, key habitats, and the range and abundance of prey species, the leatherback and the world’s other sea turtles will be impacted throughout their ranges," said Marydele Donnelly, a biologist and director of international policy with the Caribbean Conservation Corporation.
Once the most abundant and important reef-building corals in Florida and the Caribbean, elkhorn corals have declined by more than 90 percent in many areas, mainly as a result of disease and "bleaching," an often-fatal stress response to abnormally high water temperatures in which corals expel the symbiotic algae that give them color.
Until this year, frosted and reticulated flatwoods salamanders were listed as one species — simply the flatwoods salamander. After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obtained information indicating the flatwoods salamander was actually two species, they listed the frosted as threatened and the reticulated as endangered, and designated 27,000 acres of critical habitat for the two species. These salamanders face multiple impacts of habitat destruction, drought, and rising sea levels.