Listing decision part of far-reaching settlement for imperiled species
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Chugging ahead on its commitment to make endangered species listing decisions for more than 750 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced that three native Florida plants — all threatened by sea level rise — deserved protected status.
“These native plants are being squeezed out of existence — pressed between coastal development and rising sea levels,” said Florida-based Center for Biological Diversity attorney Jaclyn Lopez. “Protection under the Endangered Species Act will give them a role in South Florida’s planning for rising seas.”
The aboriginal prickly apple is found in Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties, among coastal strand vegetation and tropical coastal hammocks. Most of the 12 coastal sites would likely be wiped out by sea-level rise.
The Florida semaphore cactus is found naturally in Biscayne National Park and on Little Torch Key. Sea-level rise may already be contributing to the plant’s decline as rising seas increase soil salinity in its buttonwood forests and rockland hammocks.
The Cape Sable thoroughwort is found in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, mainly in Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys. Seven of its 11 locations will be inundated by the 1- to 6- foot sea-level rise expected this century. One foot of sea-level rise would substantially inundate mainland habitat in Everglades National Park and completely inundate habitat in the Florida Keys.
The Florida semaphore cactus was first recognized as a candidate species (meaning that listing was warranted but was precluded due to other priorities) in 1985. Years later, in 1999, the Cape Sable thoroughwort was also classified as a candidate species. In 2006 the aboriginal prickly apple met a similar fate, when it too was identified as warranting protection but was not given any.