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Climate Change, Marine Environments, and the U.S. Endangered Species Act

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Abstract

Climate change is expected to be a top driver of global biodiversity loss in the 21st century. It poses new challenges to conserving and managing imperiled species, particularly in marine and estuarine ecosystems. The use of climate‐related science in statutorily driven species management, such as under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), is in its early stages. This article provides an overview of ESA processes, with emphasis on the mandate to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to manage listed marine, estuarine, and anadromous species. Although the ESA is specific to the United States, its requirements are broadly relevant to conservation planning. Under the ESA, species, subspecies, and “distinct population segments” may be listed as either endangered or threatened, and taking of most listed species (harassing, harming, pursuing, wounding, killing, or capturing) is prohibited unless specifically authorized via a case‐by‐case permit process. Government agencies, in addition to avoiding take, must ensure that actions they fund, authorize, or conduct are not likely to jeopardize a listed species’ continued existence or adversely affect designated critical habitat. Decisions for which climate change is likely to be a key factor include: determining whether a species should be listed under the ESA, designating critical habitat areas, developing species recovery plans, and predicting whether effects of proposed human activities will be compatible with ESA‐listed species’ survival and recovery. Scientific analyses that underlie these critical conservation decisions include risk assessment, long‐term recovery planning, defining environmental baselines, predicting distribution, and defining appropriate temporal and spatial scales. Although specific guidance is still evolving, it is clear that the unprecedented changes in global ecosystems brought about by climate change necessitate new information and approaches to conservation of imperiled species.

El Cambio Climático, los Ecosistemas Marinos y el Acta Estadunidense de Especies en Peligro
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Language: Portuguese

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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