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For Immediate Release, January 5, 2011

Contact:  Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 274-1110
Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition, (202) 320-6467

New Report: Southwest Deserts Among Top 10 Places Whose Species Are Threatened by Climate Change

SAN FRANCISCO— In a new report, the Endangered Species Coalition today named the deserts of the southwestern United States as one of the top 10 places to save for wildlife on the brink of extinction. It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World highlights the importance of saving key ecosystems for endangered species and examines how the changing climate is increasing the risk of extinction for imperiled animals in the Southwest such as the pronghorn antelope, desert tortoise and many desert fishes.

“Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable. If we are serious about saving endangered species from global warming, then these are the places to start.”

“The Southwest deserts are being particularly hard hit by climate change, where rising temperatures and reduced water flows are putting wildlife under increasing stress,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For example, during a drought in 2002, more than 80 percent of the Arizona pronghorn population died, leaving only 21 animals in the state.”

The report highlights 10 ecosystems that are hotspots for threatened and endangered species, many of which are highly vulnerable to climate change now. Coalition members nominated the ecosystems for inclusion in the report, and the submissions were then reviewed and judged by a panel of scientists. For each ecosystem, the report identifies resident endangered species and necessary conservation measures to help them survive.

“Endangered species don't have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change,” said Huta. “We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife for whom climate change may mean extinction. Each ecosystem for the report was chosen because we have an opportunity to increase its resiliency — or the resiliency of the species that live there — to climate change if we immediately implement conservation measures.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 20 percent to 30 percent of the world’s species will be at an increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, lost habitat and reduced food supply.

Safeguarding Species in a Warming World
It’s Getting Hot Out There calls for the Obama administration and Congress to provide the tools and resources necessary to protect these key ecosystems from global climate change. The Coalition would also like to see climate change factored into all future endangered species-related decisions in order to help prevent species from disappearing forever. 

This is the list of top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species that are featured in the report:

1. The Arctic Sea Ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least six species of seal.

2. Shallow Water Coral Reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn coral.

3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds and 319 threatened and endangered plants.

4. Southwest Deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish and mammals.

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainson’s hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt.

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native species of amphibian, including the yellow-legged frog.

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead.

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled whitebark pine — an important food source for animals, including the threatened grizzly bear.

9. The Gulf Coast’s flatlands and wetlands, home to piping and snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill cranes and numerous species of sea turtles.

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockaded woodpecker.

Seven additional ecosystems were nominated but not selected for the Top 10. They nonetheless contain important habitat for imperiled species and include: Glacier National Park, the Jemez Mountains, Sagebrush steppe, the U.S. West Coast, the Maine Woods, the Grasslands of the Great Plains and the southern Rocky Mountains.

The full report, which includes information on each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at or


The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of hundreds of conservation, scientific, religious, sporting, outdoor recreation, business and community organizations working to protect endangered species and their habitat.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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