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Sea-level rise threatens hundreds of U.S. animal species

2:10 PM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
Loggerhead sea turtles are another species threatened by sea-level rise, due to inundations of the beaches where they lay their eggs.(Photo: NOAA)
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Hundreds of species of animals in the U.S. are threatened by sea-level rise due to climate change, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group based in San Francisco.

"Our analysis finds that 17 percent - one in six - of the nation's threatened and endangered species are at risk from rising sea levels," the report notes. Left unchecked, the group says that rising seas threaten 233 federally protected species in 23 coastal states.

Sea-level rise is one of the more noticeable impacts of global warming: From 1901 to 2010, the average sea level rise was 7.4 inches worldwide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century, with a projected range of about 10-32 inches.

"From Florida's key deer to Hawaii's monk seals, some of our most amazing creatures could be doomed as the oceans swallow up their last habitat and nesting sites," said Shaye Wolf, the center's climate science director.

"If we don't move fast to cut carbon pollution and protect ecosystems, climate chaos could do tremendous damage to our web of life," he said. "Federal wildlife officials have to step up efforts to protect America's endangered species from the deadly threat of rising seas."

According to the report, the USA's five species that are most at risk from sea-level rise are:

• Key deer (in South Florida) due to inundation of the islands where they live.

• Loggerhead sea turtles (Southeast) due to the disappearance of the beaches where they lay their eggs.

• Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel due to inundation from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, where the squirrels live.

• Western piping plover (West Coast) due to the inundation of the beaches where their nests are and where they feed.

• Hawaiian monk seal (Hawaii) also due to the beach reduction from rising seas.

The USA is home to about 1,500 federally protected threatened and endangered species.

The 23 states with endangered species threatened by sea-level rise are Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

In the report, the center analyzed data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and scientific literature.

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