Modeling the impact of sea level rise on endangered deer habitat. Academic Article uri icon


  • Numerous unique flora and fauna inhabit the Lower Florida Keys, including the endangered Florida Key deer, found nowhere else. In this vulnerable habitat of flat islands with low elevation, accelerated sea level rise poses a threat. Predicting the impact of sea level rise on vegetation and wildlife is crucial. This study used 5 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sea level rise scenarios to assess their effects on No Name Key, Florida. The goal was to estimate changes in the Florida Key deer population relative to sea level rise using a lidar-derived elevation data and a vegetation map. The method used 2 cases to model the sea level rise impact. In Case 1, total non-submerged area at current sea level was determined. Using 5 IPCC scenarios, a new total non-submerged land area was estimated, and deer numbers were predicted for each scenario. In Case 2, upward migration of coastal vegetation combined with the coastal squeeze process was modeled. A distinct elevation range for each vegetation type at the current sea level was determined. Vegetation ranges were redistributed based on respective elevation ranges in the sea level rise scenarios. Areas for each vegetation type were recalculated, and Key deer numbers were estimated for each sea level rise scenario. Results under the worst emission scenario showed the following: (1) for case 1, the land area was reduced to 30 % of the current land area, corresponding to having about 27 deer, and (2) for case 2, the land area was reduced to 70 % of the current land area, having about 54 deer on No Name Key. The results indicated reduced non-submerged land area and less upland vegetation, particularly hardwoods/hammocks, by the year 2100. As less land area is available, a decline in Key deer population is expected as sea levels rise. Since Key deer favor upland vegetation, habitat affected by sea level rise will likely support a smaller deer population. The findings emphasize the need for precise, timely predictions of sea level rise impacts and long-term conservation strategies. Specifically designed measures are required to protect and maintain endangered wildlife, such as the Florida Key deer, residing on these vulnerable islands.

published proceedings

  • J Environ Manage

author list (cited authors)

  • Kim, J., Popescu, S. C., Lopez, R. R., Wu, X. B., & Silvy, N. J.

complete list of authors

  • Kim, Jiyeon||Popescu, Sorin C||Lopez, Roel R||Wu, X Ben||Silvy, Nova J

publication date

  • May 2024