Historically ubiquitous throughout the state, Florida's only two extant large carnivores, the federally endangered Florida panther and black bear, are now geographically restricted with small populations. Rapid human population growth and sea level rise (SLR) threaten to diminish these species’ habitats. To aid landscape-scale conservation efforts, we estimated changes in habitat across a set of alternative future land-use and SLR projections. Intermediate-high (0.9 m) to extreme (1.8 m) SLR projections inundated 2.2–4.8% of panther and 3.3–5.4% of bear habitat by 2070. Unmitigated urban sprawl with minor protection policies (a Trend 2070 land-use projection) eliminated 8.8% of panther and 11.3% of bear habitat but increased protected habitat by 3.3%. In contrast, increased urban densities coupled with extensive land protection policies (an Alternative 2070 land-use projection) eliminated 4.1% of panther and 7.3% of bear habitat, and it increased protected habitat 52.1% for panther and 64.1% for bear. In combination, the Trend 2070 and extreme SLR projections reduced protected habitat 3.4% for panther and 6.6% for bear. However, the Alternative 2070 projection offset habitat area lost to extreme SLR, increasing protected habitat 45.3% for panther and 51.6% for bear. Protecting land along the Caloosahatchee River may accommodate panther dispersal to large habitat patches in northern Florida, while protecting inland habitat corridors may compensate for black bear habitat connectivity lost to inundation along the Gulf Coast. These alternative future projections prognosticate the impacts of climate and land-use change on the viability of Florida's two large carnivores.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. David S. Maehr and Andrew Whittle who helped develop earlier models that informed our basic analytical approach but ultimately were not incorporated into our findings. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
© 2021 Elsevier GmbH
- Alternative future analysis
- Puma concolor coryi
- Sea level rise
- Ursus americanus floridanus
- Wildlife corridors
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation