Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sea level rise washes out a bunny

Mickie Anderson in A rise in sea level is responsible for the disappearance of nearly half of the endangered marsh rabbit’s Florida Keys habitat, research shows. The Lower Keys marsh rabbit, known to scientists as Sylvilagus palustris hefneri—named for Playboy publishing magnate Hugh Hefner–is a small- to medium-sized rabbit with dark brown fur and a grayish-white belly.

Once abundant in the lower Florida Keys, the rabbit has been on the federal endangered species list since 1990, and only a few hundred remain on just a few of the keys, including Boca Chica, Sugarloaf, and Big Pine.

The findings raise concerns about the outlook for many coastal species, researchers say, because there is no reason to believe that outlook won’t worsen over time, as ocean levels are predicted to continue to rise.

 “We kind of look at sea level rise as this problem that’s just starting, something that is going to be a real problem for conservation in the future. But what we’re showing here is that it’s already a problem,” says Robert McCleery, assistant professor wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida....

An employee of The Nature Conservancy uses a drip torch filled with gasoline and diesel fuel to set fires along the runways of Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West. Working in cooperation with the State of Florida and The Nature Conservancy, NAS Key West's Environmental Department conducted prescribed burns to gauge the effectiveness of prescribed fires for maintaining vegetative growth in areas around runways, reducing invasive and exotic vegetation, and improving forage and cover habitats for the Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit. U.S. Navy photo by Trice Denny (RELEASED)

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