A tiny deer and rising seas: How far should people go to save an endangered species?

The Key deer, a tiny, unique species in North America, is threatened by rapidly rising sea levels caused by human-induced climate change, leading to tough questions about the feasibility and expense of efforts to save endangered species.

A test for the Endangered Species Act: Rising sea levels are posing challenges to the extinction prevention goals of the Endangered Species Act, especially for species like the Key deer that inhabit low-lying islands.
* Ninety-percent of the Florida Keys’ land mass, which houses 31 federally protected plants and animals, sits 5 feet above sea level or below.
* With rising sea levels, habitats have shrunk and sea-level rise projections look bleak for these species and their habitats.

Possible measures: For species that are restricted to unique, diminishing habitats, the options include doing nothing and risking extinction, moving species to new areas, and efforts to preserve their DNA and seeds.
* Moving species could, however, risk turning them into invasive species in new habitats.
* The dilemma is considering whether these measures truly represent a future for species like the Key deer, which has distinct characteristics linked to its habitat.

Key deer, a conservation success: If not for climate change, the Key deer species is considered a conservation success.
* After near extinction due to poaching and habitat loss in the 1950s, targeted conservation efforts have caused the Key deer population to rebound, with an estimated 1,000 individuals present today.

The larger problem: Climate change is threatening more than 10,000 species around the globe, with endemic species particularly vulnerable, highlighting the need for comprehensive solutions.
* Notably, the greatest threat to the Key deer is not so much its own survival, but rather the survival of its habitat which is being eroded by rising sea levels and increased hurricane intensity.
View original article on NPR
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