350 home Browse by region Browse by taxon Browse alphabetically Take action


Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis)
Range: Dade and Monroe counties in the Everglades system in southern Florida
The Cape Sable seaside sparrow isn’t nicknamed the “Goldilocks bird” for nothing: In order for this little sparrow to survive, its habitat conditions have to be just right. Unfortunately, this sparrow’s habitat in south Florida’s Everglades system has been the target of drastic water-level manipulation that has been devastating to the bird’s population, and strong storms — like Hurricane Andrew in 1992 — have posed further serious setbacks. As sea level rises, the freshwater marshes inhabited by the sparrow are being flooded and turning into mud flats and mangrove-dominated marine waters. Increasingly severe hurricanes due to global warming also threaten this bird’s chances for survival, since hurricanes can kill the tiny birds directly or alter the plant communities they rely on.

The Center and Florida Biodiversity Project filed suit in September 2009 to reverse a Bush-era decision that stripped 70,000 acres of critical habitat identified by scientists as essential for the survival of the rare songbird.
Choctawhatchee beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus Allophrys)
Range: Florida’s Topsail Hill, Shell Island, and Grayton Beach
Beach mice burrow and excavate nests in sand dunes. Their burrows typically have a main hole that acts as a front door and a second hole, or back door, often used to escape predators. That back door, however, won’t be much help in the fight against global warming. The Choctawhatchee beach mouse has survived thousands of years since barrier islands were formed, but the continued survival of this tiny endangered mouse depends on healthy dunes ecosystem. With global warming producing rising tide lines and increase storm surge, dune ecosystems — already suffering under development and overuse — face further challenges, as does this tiny mouse.

Thanks to a suit by the Center, in 2000 this beach mouse received almost 700 acres of federally protected habitat.
Elliptical star coral (Dichocoenia stokesii)
Range: Caribbean
Often found in small, spherical forms, elliptical star coral is easily identified by its oval-shaped corallites, which conspicuously protrude above the surface. In deeper waters the corallites take on a more circular appearance. Elliptical star coral is most often a distinctive orange-brown color, and very infrequently green. Corals are among the species most threatened by greenhouse gas pollution. Due to warming ocean temperatures, corals are already suffering from frequent mass bleaching events that lead to widespread coral death and higher risk of disease. Ocean acidification is already hindering some corals from building their skeletons, and all corals are predicted to dissolve at carbon dioxide levels of 560 parts per million. Scientists have said that carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm or below to protect corals.

In 2009, the Center filed a scientific petition to list 83 corals, including the elliptical star coral, under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostrus)
Range: Florida
Manatees, sometimes referred to as sea cows, are large, aquatic marine mammals related to elephants that spend much of their time resting and gently grazing on seagrasses and other vegetation in warm, shallow waters. The population of manatees in Florida is thought to be between 1,000 and 3,000, and they’ve been known to live up to 60 years. The leading cause of death is boat strikes, which kill manatees and leave propeller wounds on the survivors. The number of manatee deaths in Florida caused by humans has been increasing, and now typically accounts for 20 to 40 percent of recorded deaths. Sea-level rise and changes in water flow that increase water turbidity threaten the manatee’s main food source of seagrasses that grow in shallow, relatively clear waters. Hurricane intensity and storm surge will increase with climate change, which may directly kill manatees or impact their food supply, leading to impaired manatee health and reproduction.

In response to a petition by the Center and allies, in 2009 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that new habitat protections may be warranted for the manatee.
Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi)
Range: Primarily a 3,548-square-mile area in south Florida’s Everglades region, with some panthers sited in various Florida counties north of the Caloosahatchee River
A reserved, stealthy predator of enormous physical grace and power, the Florida panther is one of the most majestic large felines in the wild, and tragically, it’s the only large feline remaining in the Southeast. Once found throughout the southeast United States, the Florida panther now occupies only about 5 percent of its former range, and it numbers just 100 to 120 individual cats. By far the greatest threats to Florida panthers are habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation — all driven by Florida’s burgeoning human population and the developments and highways that accommodate it. Sea-level rise, estimated to reach 1 meter or more by 2100, will inundate and eliminate a large portion of the panther’s remaining habitat in Florida’s low-lying Everglades.

The Center petitioned for the protection of roughly 3 million acres of critical habitat for the panther in September 2009.
Florida prairie clover (Dalea carthagenensis floridana)
Range: Big Cypress National Preserve in Monroe and Collier counties and Miami-Dade County, Florida
The Florida prairie clover has been reduced to just nine isolated patches in fragmented habitat in the low-lying south Florida pinelands. This rare plant is at risk of winking out forever due to fire suppression, exotic plant invasion, squashing by off-road vehicles — and now, climate change. Hurricanes, tropical storms, and storm surges harm the delicate plant, making increasingly powerful hurricanes, higher storm surge, and ever-increasing sea-level rise due to climate change serious threats to its future. But though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declares this plant is in imminent need of federal protection, the Florida prairie clover remains a mere “candidate” for Endangered Species Act listing.
Frosted flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum)
Range: southeastern coastal plain, United States
The Frosted flatwoods salamander only occurs in the southeastern coastal plain of the United States. It inhabits seasonally wet pine flatwoods and savannas and breeds in small, shallow, ephemeral ponds. Courtship presumably occurs on land, where the female accepts a spermatophore that has been deposited on the ground by the male. The eggs hatch in response to rising water levels in the ponds. Adults migrate from surrounding upland habitats to their natal wetlands during rainfall associated with passing cold fronts. These salamanders are sensitive to drought. Projected increases in drought conditions could dry the salamanders’ shallow, short-lived breeding ponds.

After years of litigation brought by the Center and allies, the salamander was listed as a threatened species in 2009 and more than 27,000 acres of critical habitat was designated.
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Range: Worldwide distribution in tropical and subtropical waters
The green sea turtle is one of the oldest sea turtles studied; in fact, much knowledge about sea turtle ecology comes from studies of this species. Green sea turtles’ common name derives from the green fat underneath their shells. Like other sea turtles, over their average lifespan of 80 years, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged but must breathe air, routinely diving for about five minutes and surfacing to breathe for one to three seconds. They can sleep underwater for several hours, but their ability to hold their breath is affected by activity and stress, which is why turtles drown in fishing gear within a relatively short time. Global warming threatens the green sea turtle in several ways: Rising sea levels may inundate nesting beaches; increased sand temperatures can lead to changes in the sex ratio of hatchling turtles; warming ocean temperatures are leading to mass coral bleaching, damaging reef habitats where turtles feed; and changes in ocean currents can alter turtle migrations paths and feeding patterns.

The Center takes to court to defend the green sea turtle and other sea turtle species from longline fishing through our Fisheries Campaign.
Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Range: Tropical reefs of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans
The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is the only species in its genus. Its distinguishing feature: the sharp, curving, beak-like mouth from which it gets its common name. Its chosen prey includes sea sponges, which are highly toxic and can be lethal when eaten by other creatures — but not for the hawksbill. Human fishing practices and the use of hawskbill shells for tortoiseshell trinkets have resulted in the hawksbill facing the possibility of extinction. Global warming threatens the hawksbill in several ways: Rising sea levels may inundate nesting beaches; increased sand temperatures can lead to changes in the sex ratio of hatchling turtles; warming ocean temperatures are leading to mass coral bleaching, damaging reef habitats where turtles feed; and changes in ocean current can alter turtle migrations paths and feeding patterns.

The Center works hard to stop longline fishing practices that ensnare the hawksbill and other sea turtles.
Human being (Homo sapiens)
Range: Global
Homo sapiens, the Latin name for the modern human species, means “wise man.” Modern humans evolved in east Africa about 200,000 years ago. As of 2009, there are more than 6.8 billion of us on Earth. Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving, but can they put these qualities to use when it comes to the man-made challenge posed by global warming?

Health and climate scientists believe that global warming is already responsible for some 150,000 deaths each year, and they fear that the number may well double by 2030. Global warming also contributes to some 5 million human illnesses every year. Some of the ways global warming negatively affects human health — especially in poorer nations — include: speeding the spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever; creating conditions that lead to potentially fatal malnutrition and diarrhea; and increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, floods, and other weather-related disasters. Studies have also found a direct link between rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and increased human mortality. Added air pollution caused by each degree Celsius increase in temperature caused by CO2 leads to about 1,000 additional deaths in the United States and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma.
Ivory tree coral (Oculina varicosa)
Range: Western Atlantic
This Caribbean coral is a slow-growing and delicate-branching coral whose thickets provide a home to various reef fish. Ivory tree coral is considered a keystone species, meaning that its own health indicates the health of the ecosystem around it — thus, it’s telling that these corals have been decimated by destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling, which has killed about 30 percent of the population across its range. And today, corals like the ivory tree are among the species most threatened by greenhouse gas pollution. With warming ocean temperatures comes frequent mass bleaching events that lead to widespread coral death and higher risk of disease. Ocean acidification harms corals’ ability to build their skeletons, and all corals are predicted to dissolve at CO2 levels of 560 parts per million.

In 2009, the Center filed a scientific petition to list 83 species of corals under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming, including this species.
Johnson’s seagrass (Halophila johnsonii)
Range: Fragmented distribution along 125 miles of coastline in southeastern Florida from Sebastian Inlet to Biscayne Bay
The creeping rhizomes of Johnson’s seagrass can be found throughout a patchwork of lagoons in southeastern Florida. This miniature grass provides a refuge for small marine animals and a nursery for the young. Large herbivores, like the green sea turtle and Florida manatee, frequently feed on Johnson’s seagrass leaves. Seagrass meadows provide an important link to the many communities that make up the aquatic web of life. But sea-level rise and changes in water flow that increase water turbidity threaten seagrasses that grow in shallow, relatively clear waters. Thanks to the extremely limited range of Johnson’s seagrass, this plant faces an even greater risk of extinction with the increase in hurricane activity due to global warming.

In 1998, Johnson’s seagrass was listed as a threatened species after the Biodiversity Legal Foundation (later absorbed by the Center) petitioned and litigated for its protection. Critical habitat was designated two years later.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
Range: Western Atlantic seaboard from Florida to New England; Gulf of Mexico
The critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is the smallest and rarest sea turtle. In 1947, there were an estimated 89,000 nesting females, but by the mid-1980s, that number had plummeted to an estimated 1,000. One of the biggest threats to the species has been shrimp trawling, which entangles and drowns the turtles. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles change color with development. As hatchlings, they’re almost entirely a dark gray, but adults have a yellow-green or white undershell and a gray-green upper shell. Sea-level rise may inundate nesting beaches for the Kemp’s Ridley; increased sand temperatures can lead to changes in the sex ratio of hatchling turtles; and changes in ocean current can alter turtle migrations paths and feeding patterns.

The Center has waged a long battle to curtail fishing practices such as longlining and trawling that threaten the Kemp’s Ridley.
Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)
Range: Small stretch of the Florida Keys from Sugarloaf Key to Bahia Honda Key
The key deer is believed to have migrated to the Florida Keys from the mainland over a land bridge during the Wisconsin glaciation. The earliest known written reference to key deer comes from the writings of a shipwrecked Spanish sailor in the 1550s. The range of the key deer originally encompassed all of the lower Florida Keys, but is now limited to a stretch of the Florida Keys from about Sugarloaf Key to Bahia Honda Key. Hunting key deer was banned in 1939, but widespread poaching and habitat destruction caused the subspecies to plummet to near-extinction by the 1950s — only 25 are estimated to have existed in 1955 — with numbers now up to between 300 and 800. Global warming brings additional threats of rising sea levels and increased storm intensity that may largely eliminate the key deer’s upland habitat on the low-lying Florida Keys. In Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge on Big Pine Key, the plant community has already shifted to more salt-tolerant species in the last 20 years as sea levels have risen. Sea-level rise in this century is predicted to virtually eliminate the deer’s upland pine forest and hardwood hammock habitat on Big Pine Key.
Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Range: All tropical and subtropical oceans, as far south as the southernmost tip of New Zealand and as far north as the Arctic Circle
As ancient as the dinosaurs, leatherback sea turtles are the heaviest reptiles on the planet. In addition to longlines and gillnets, these remarkable creatures face the threat of global warming. Rising sea levels, increased sand temperatures, and stronger storms threaten the sandy beaches the turtles use to nest. Shifting currents may alter the ocean’s upwelling patterns, which turtles depend on for food. And because turtles lack sex chromosomes, their genes don‘t determine whether a hatchling is male or female. Instead, buried eggs take their cue from the ambient temperature. With a mere two-degree increase over 29 degrees Celsius, a nest will produce all females — a few degrees higher, and eggs won‘t hatch at all. To maintain a viable breeding population, a cool, male-producing year must come at least once every five to 10 years.

Since leatherbacks are particularly imperiled in the Pacific Ocean, in 2007 the Center petitioned to obtain critical habitat for leatherbacks off California and Oregon. In 2009, we filed a notice of intent to sue to speed habitat protection.
Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Range: Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans
Loggerhead sea turtles make some of the longest known journeys of any sea turtle species, each year migrating more than 7,500 miles between nesting beaches in Japan and feeding grounds off the coast of Mexico. Along the way, they must navigate past millions of longline hooks, which catch and kill thousands of sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals, and sharks. Gillnet fisheries likewise entangle and drown many loggerheads. Making matters much worse, rising sea levels due to global warming threaten to destroy Florida’s nesting beaches, and rising temperatures could dramatically tilt the balance of male and female turtles being hatched, endangering the species’ reproductive abilities. This is because turtles’ gender is determined by temperature; in warmer weather, there are fewer males born, and with a temperature just two degrees higher than 29 degrees Celsius, almost all hatchlings are females.

The Center has repeatedly litigated to curtail commercial fishing practices harming the loggerhead. Following one lawsuit, longline fishing for swordfish was prohibited along the West Coast. In 2007, we petitioned to list North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles as endangered, as well as to increase protections in key nesting habitat.
Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri)
Range: Lower Florida Keys
With a scientific name given in honor of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, the Lower Keys marsh rabbit is an endangered subspecies of marsh rabbit with short- dark-brown fur and a grayish-white belly. Marsh rabbits are more aquatic than swamp rabbits, taking to water readily, and are excellent swimmers due to the fact that their hind legs have less fur and longer nails than typical cottontails. Because they live on low-lying islands, marsh rabbits will lose most of their habitat with even moderate levels of sea-level rise — 0.6 meters — and virtually all of their habitat with 0.9 meters of sea-level rise.

The Center profiled the Lower Keys marsh rabbit in our groundbreaking report on pesticides and endangered species, Silent Spring Revisited. We defend the rabbit and countless other pesticides-affected species through our Pesticides Reduction Campaign.
Miami blue butterfly (Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri)
Range: Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key in the Lower Florida Keys
This small, metallic blue butterfly native to south Florida experienced its first major setback in the 1980s, when coastal development exploded and Florida’s war on mosquitoes dispersed toxic chemicals throughout the butterfly’s range. After Hurricane Andrew ripped through southern Florida in 1992, the already-scarce Miami blue butterfly almost went extinct — no one recorded a single sighting for years. Finally, in 1999, a photographer discovered 35 specimens in Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Florida Keys, which now houses the only wild population of Miami blues. Today, global warming brings additional risks to this greatly imperiled species as sea-level rise threatens to inundate much of its habitat on low-lying Bahia Honda Key, and stronger hurricanes could devastate the remaining small, isolated population.

The Center has filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service for refusing to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
Range: Atlantic Ocean, particularly between 20° and 60° latitude.
The North Atlantic right whale’s scientific name is Eubalaena glacialis, which means “good, or true, whale of the ice.” About 400 of these whales live in the North Atlantic Ocean, migrating between feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine and calving areas in Georgia and Florida. Dangerously, their paths collide with heavily used shipping routes, and between 1970 and 1999, 35.5 percent of recorded right whale deaths were attributed to ship strikes. North Atlantic right whales are also threatened by climate change because they appear to have better calf survival when Calanus copepod prey are abundant, and climate change influences the abundance of this prey species.

To protect the North Atlantic right whale, the Center petitioned for critical habitat for the species in 2009.
Perdido Key beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis)
The Perdido Key beach mouse, listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, has a small body, hairy tail, large ears, and protuberant eyes. A nocturnal herbivore, it lives in the dunes that are located just above the high-tide line, feeding primarily on the seeds of sea oats and beach grass — and sometimes invertebrates. A variety of animals live with beach mice in these dune habitats, including the six-lined racer, monarch butterflies, snowy plovers, and coachwhip snakes. Global warming’s rising waters and increasing storm surges threaten the beach mouse because they live only in dune habitats. These mice are at high risk of extinction if their habitat is destroyed.

In 2003, the Center and Sierra Club filed suit to increase federal protection for the Perdido Key beach mouse’s coastal habitat.
Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus)
Range: Caribbean
Pillar corals grow in distinct groups of tall columns that occasionally reach more than six feet in height. Unlike most hard corals, the polyps are active in daytime, granting the pillar coral a soft, fuzzy appearance. Corals are among the species most threatened by greenhouse gas pollution. Due to warming ocean temperatures, corals are already suffering from frequent mass bleaching events that lead to widespread coral death and higher risk of disease. Ocean acidification is already hindering some corals from building their skeletons, and all corals are predicted to dissolve at carbon dioxide levels of 560 parts per million. Scientists have said that carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm or below to protect corals.

In 2009, the Center filed a scientific petition to list 83 corals, including pillar coral, under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
Piping plover (Charadrius melodus)
Range: Atlantic Coast of United States and Canada, Great Lakes
Thanks to their sand-colored plumage and stop-and-go dashes across dunes, piping plovers are usually heard before they’re seen. But their camouflage means they’re vulnerable to off-road vehicles and other threats, which have made them among the rarest shorebirds in North America. Off-road vehicles, which ruin habitat, crush nests and eggs, and directly kill birds. Climate change poses a growing threat to the piping plover. Many plovers nest on the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and all plovers winter along the beaches and dunes of the southern Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coastlines. Sea-level rise and storm intensification threaten to inundate the piping plover’s coastal breeding and foraging habitat; degrade the quality of habitat for foraging, nesting, and cover; and alter the composition and availability of prey species.

To save piping plovers, the Center has been working hard to keep off-road vehicles out of precious habitat through our Off-road Vehicles campaign. We also filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for inadequately protecting piping plover habitat.
Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus)
Range: Upper Florida Keys, from Key Biscayne Park to northern Key Largo and Upper Matecumbe Key
The Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly historically occurred in tropical hardwood hammock from south Miami to Lower Matecumbe Key, Florida. Originally listed as a threatened species because of habitat destruction and impacts from mosquito-control practices, it’s now listed as endangered because its numbers and range have declined dramatically. The butterfly is further threatened by sea-level rise and increasing hurricane intensity. Rising ocean waters will lead to the loss of the butterfly’s upland hardwood hammock and pine rockland habitat to more salt-tolerant plants. Major hurricanes, like Hurricane Andrew, cause widespread mortality of butterfly adults and destroy or damage host plants like torchwood and wild lime that house butterfly larvae.
Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata)
Range: South Florida waters between the Caloosahatchee River and the Florida Keys
The smalltooth sawfish is a unique, bottom-dwelling ray named and widely known for its long, saw-like bill lined with razor-sharp teeth. Once widespread in Florida waters, the smalltooth sawfish is now restricted to a small segment of the south Florida coast in the shallow waters of mangrove forests, bays, estuaries, and river mouths. Sea-level rise poses a profound threat to this species by submerging and degrading its coastal habitat and changing temperature and salinity regimes.

In 2007, the Center settled a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, forcing the agency to meet a past-due deadline to designate critical habitat. Finally, in September 2009, the Fisheries Service finalized a designation of 840,472 acres of critical habitat for the smalltooth sawfish.
Three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis)
Range: South-central United States
Three-toed box turtles are the state reptile of Missouri and have long been kept as pets. These turtles are recognizable for their highly domed shell and three-toed back feet (hence their name). In the wild, these box turtles are threatened by global warming as environmental changes threaten to dramatically alter the forests, marshes, and humid grasslands they call home. Sex determination of developing turtles is temperature dependent, and warming temperatures from climate change threaten to disrupt the turtle’s gender balance. One study has found that under future climate conditions, three-toed box turtles might experience precariously low growth rates as smaller individuals produce fewer eggs.

In 2009 the Center, along with local groups from each state, petitioned wildlife and health agencies in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee for a ban on commercial harvest of freshwater turtles.
Whooping crane (Grus americana)
Range: Only known remaining nesting location at Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada; breeding populations migrate south to winter along the Gulf Coast of Texas
The tallest North American bird, the whooping crane is also one of the rarest, largely thanks to habitat loss. One effort to save this amazing bird attempted to establish a new flyway by training young whooping cranes to follow ultralight aircraft. At one time, the range for these birds extended throughout the Midwest, but in 1941, the wild population consisted of just 21 birds. In early 2007, a disastrous storm killed all of the 2006 yearlings after their arrival in Florida. With global warming, the potential for these types of catastrophic events increases. What’s more, changes in precipitation that shrink the inland wetlands of the crane’s breeding ground would reduce the availability of quality nesting sites, reduce food availability, and allow predators to access nests and young. On the bird’s wintering grounds along the Texas coast, sea-level rise combined with land subsidence would reduce the suitability of salt marsh and open water areas for the cranes.

In 2009, the Center worked with local environmentalists in Nebraska to convince a utility to relocate a proposed wind tower outside the crane’s flyway.