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Publication #WEC 282

Planning for Climate Change in South Florida: Climate Envelope Modeling for Threatened and Endangered Species1

Laura A. Brandt, Stephanie S. Romañach and Frank J. Mazzotti2

The University of Florida, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, and National Park Service are working in partnership to develop methods and tools that will allow natural resource managers to examine potential effects of climate change on species' geographic ranges in the context of ecosystem and landscape planning.

Climate envelope models describe relationships between species' occurrences and bioclimate variables derived from temperature and precipitation data to define a species' climate niche (envelope). Relationships derived from contemporary climate conditions and distributional data can be projected to the future using estimates of anticipated climate change. Models describing hypothesized changes in a species' future climate envelope then may be used in association with spatially explicit projections of land use change and sea level rise to estimate how species' distributions may respond to multiple interactive drivers of global change.

Figure 1. 

As climate change alters precipitation patterns, species' ranges may shift depending on physiological tolerances.


Worldclim (

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Figure 2. 

We will compile available climate information from sources that provide reliable data at the appropriate resolution (e.g., National Climatic Data Center, Worldclim database). In addition to using data obtained from global databases at a resolution of 1 km2, our flexible framework will allow us to incorporate a variety of climate projections for forecasting potential future species' distributions. We will be able to take advantage of the most recent downscaled climate data from US Geological Survey and others involved in regional climate downscaling efforts as they become available.

This project will use existing information on 21 threatened and endangered, non-marine vertebrate species in south Florida, augment it with up-to-date data, identify critical limiting factors directly and indirectly influenced by climate change, and identify information gaps in the following areas:

  • Sensitivity of species to temperature and precipitation changes

  • Species' phenological responses to changing seasonal temperature and precipitation

Figure 3. 

Species such as the wood stork that rely on freshwater wetlands may be more sensitive to changes in precipitation than to changes in temperature.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Modeling Approach

We will use a modeling approach that will incorporate the following elements:

  • The most biologically relevant climatic variables for each species (e.g., temperature during breeding season vs. annual minimum temperature)

  • The most appropriate methods for species that have different types of environmental tolerances

  • The most appropriate methods for different types of management decisions


A key aspect of the project will be collaboration among managers and researchers from multiple agencies and organizations. This partnership will avoid duplication of effort and ensure both scientific rigor and management relevance of products.


This is a three-year project with the first year supported by the following federal agencies:

  • National Park Service, Critical Ecosystems Study Initiative

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Vero Beach Office

  • U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science Program


We will produce a synthesis of existing information in databases, models, maps (including digital range maps), documentation, and fact sheets. This information provides the foundation for updating recovery plans, assessing vulnerability of species to climate change, and examining alternative futures. This project also provides methods that can be applied to other species and areas.

Figure 4. 

The American crocodile and the Key Largo woodrat are expected to have different responses to changing temperature because of their different life history characteristics.


Crocodile photo: Mike Rochford, UF/IFAS. Woodrat photo: Clay DeGayner, Friends and Volunteers of Refuges (FAVOR) Florida Keys.

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For more information contact:

Laura A. Brandt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -

Stephanie S. Romañach, U.S. Geological Survey -

Frank J. Mazzotti, University of Florida -


Table 1. 

Twenty-one threatened and endangered terrestrial vertebrate species in south Florida are the focus of this project.

Common Name

Scientific Name


Key deer

Odocoileus virginianus clavium

Key Largo cotton mouse

Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola

Southeastern beach mouse

Peromyscus polionotus niveiventris

Florida panther

Puma concolor coryi

Lower Keys marsh rabbit

Sylvilagus palustris hefneri

Silver rice rat

Oryzomys palustris natator

Key Largo woodrat

Neotoma floridana smalli


Audubon crested caracara

Polyborus plancus audubonii

Florida scrub jay

Aphelocoma coerulescens

Everglades snail kite

Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus

Piping plover

Charadrius melodus

Cape Sable seaside sparrow

Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis

Florida grasshopper sparrow

Ammodramus savannarum floridanus

Wood stork

Mycteria americana

Red-cockaded woodpecker

Picoides borealis

Roseate tern

Sterna dougallii dougallii


American crocodile

Crocodylus acutus

Bluetail mole skink

Eumeces egregius lividus

Sand skink

Neoseps reynoldsi

Atlantic salt marsh snake

Nerodia clarkii taeniata

Eastern indigo snake

Drymarchon corais couperi



This document is WEC 282, one of a series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2010. Reviewed March 2013 and April 2016. Visit the EDIS website at


Laura A. Brandt, wildlife biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Stephanie S. Romañach, ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey; Frank J. Mazzotti, associate professor, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.