Impacts on Florida's Fish and Wildlife

Two things will greatly impact Florida's wildlife communities: warmer temperatures on land and in water, and changes in seasonal rainfall patterns. Both warming and altered rainfall patterns will in turn alter species distributions, life cycles and species interactions (e.g., predator-prey relationships).

Weather changes also will increase dissolved carbon dioxide concentrations, making seawater more acidic. This change will likely cause harm to Florida's coral reefs and the ability of marine organisms to build their shells or exoskeletons.

While some species will thrive with these climate and weather changes, others could end up imperiled or endangered.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners are working together to address these anticipated challenges. For more information visit the What is FWC Doing, What You Can Do, Adapting, Partners, and Links pages.

The following lists of anticipated and potential impacts on wildlife and habitats are based on climate change research and basic knowledge of how fish and wildlife are affected by change.






Impacts on Terrestrial Species and Ecosystems:

Changing climate causes changes in vegetation or habitat characteristics in terrestrial habitats 

  • Some species seek to move, some species adapt and some go locally extinct.
  • Some species will lack appropriate corridors to move to more suitable habitats - this could eliminate a species or a portion of its range.
  • Some species will no longer have suitable habitat within their historic range in Florida.
  • Protected areas may no longer be suitable for many wildlife.
    species or correspond to the most important wildlife habitat.
  • Normal seasonal fire events may change.

Impacts on Waterfowl

Impacts on Marine Species and Ecosystems:

  • Ocean acidification causes coral bleaching and loss of coral habitats for coral-associated species
  • Ocean acidification will impair many shell building organisms
  • Disruptions in marine food chain causing marine extinctions
  • Loss of important coastal nursery areas/habitats (i.e., mangroves, salt marsh)

Impacts on Recreational Saltwater Fishing

Impacts on Freshwater Species and Ecosystems:

  • Sex ratios of some turtles, alligators and crocodiles may become skewed if animals cannot adapt to changing temperature patterns
  • Nest failures of American crocodiles, alligators, and other land-nesting aquatic animals may increase as intensity and frequency of storms, flooding, or fire events increase
  • Seasonal streams and wetlands decrease due to longer, drier periods, reducing habitat for wetland wildlife
  • Loss of freshwater habitat connectivity due to longer, drier periods
  • Increased fish kill and loss of aquatic species diversity due to declines in dissolved oxygen in streams, lakes and wetlands
  • Reduced or eliminated stream flow and biological diversity of wetland species due to reduced groundwater recharge and increase in groundwater pumping (depleting aquifers) as humans manipulate water resources
  • Changes in aquatic invertebrates (animals without backbones) that dwell on or in the bottom sediments of tidal rivers and streams due to increased penetration of saltwater (e.g., clams, crayfish and a wide variety of worms)

Impacts on Invasive Organisms:

  • Invasive nonnative species already in Florida increase their range within the state
  • Just like endemic species, some invasive species will decrease their range
  • Invasive species time bombs - some nonnative species already here may become highly invasive as the climate changes.
  • Introduction and establishment of new plant, animal, and zoonotic diseases
  • Nonnative Caribbean and tropical wildlife species become invasive in Florida - especially in coastal areas and south Florida.
  • Disturbance due to climate change will make previous uninvaded habitats more prone to biological invasions.
  • Invasive species, because of global climate change may alter historical fire regimes throughout Florida, exposing native ecosystems not adapted to fire to more frequent and intense fire events.
  • Native species in south Florida will become invasive species in north Florida.

Impacts of Sea Level Rise:

  • Migration of coastal habitat and wildlife inland.
  • Loss of coastal habitat in areas where barriers/human development block the migration of coastal habitat inland.
  • Loss of important estuarine habitats (mangroves, salt marsh and seagrass) associated with sea level rise (increased intrusion of seawater into estuaries due to sea level rise).
  • Human migration inland puts additional development pressure on inland habitats
  • Large areas of the Everglades may be inundated.
  • Increased saltwater intrusion to groundwater/aquifers.
  • Increased vulnerability of coastal areas to flooding from storm waves/surge due to raised base of sea level.
  • Increased penetration of saltwater wedge into tidal rivers and streams
  • Decreased flow of coastal springs due to reduced hydraulic head and decreased groundwater recharge.
  • Loss of maritime forest through lower recruitment due to increased salinity and soil saturation.

Impacts of Phenology Disruption (Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal variations in climate.):

  • Reproductive patterns of some species may become disrupted due to changing environmental conditions; some species adapt and some disappear.
  • Pollination of some plant species disrupted, as flowering times of plants differ from the phenology of pollinators, some plants face extirpation in the state or extinction.
  • Some species are unable to successfully breed due to disruptions in climate patterns and are unable to adapt (many amphibian species will likely be extirpated from all or parts of their range).
  • Some species change their phenology patterns and must face new competitive and predator interactions.
  • Altered migration patterns of fish, birds and mammals.

Impacts Due to Severity of Tropical Storms:

  • More frequent storm surge flooding.
  • Increased areas of permanent inundation, affecting inland and coastal ecosystems in low lying areas.
  • Increased erosion, both coastal and inland.
  • Changes in hydrology; greater fluctuation in water levels.

Impacts Due to Increases in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide:

  • Differential growth responses by plants could alter plant community structure.
  • Rates of primary production should increase in many native ecosystems.
  • Increased ocean acidification resulting in loss of coral and impacts to other marine life, particularly those that form shells and those that rely on coral for habitat.

Existing Issues that Could Worsen Due to Climate Change:

  • Growth and development
    • Energy development
    • Conflicts over land protection and land use planning
    • Habitat loss and fragmentation
    • Access to areas for recreation (boating, hunting, fishing)
    • Human-wildlife conflicts
  • Water and hydrology
    • Availability
    • Quality
    • Minimum flows and levels
    • Diversions
    • Management conflicts
    • Temperature changes
    • Pollution and sediments
  • Ecosystem changes
  • Invasive species, pests and disease
  • Fire regime changes - some terrestrial habitats rely on being burned at certain intervals. If the time between fires changes, the habitat may not function as it should.
  • Sport and commercially harvested species - due to changes in marine and estuarine habitats, the number of fish available for harvesting may change.

FWC Facts:
Florida's natural lands and waters are at the core of our state's prosperity, bringing billions of dollars in economic benefits to our state every year.

Learn More at AskFWC