We hear a great deal about how rising sea levels associated with global climate change threaten coastal cities, potentially washing into their subways and flooding their streets, but not much attention has been given to the way that rising sea levels affect non-human life. That deficit has been remedied by the Center for Biological Diversity, which has published a new report called Deadly Waters: How Rising Seas Threaten 233 Federally Protected Species.
In the report, one particular threat caught my attention: An endangered squirrel. I asked myself: How could an endangered squirrel be threatened by rising sea levels?
It all has to do with geography. The delmarva fox squirrel lives on the peninsula south of New Jersey that is shared by the states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (thus the name delmarva). The squirrel can grow to be twice the size of typical grey squirrels, but it doesn’t have much room on that peninsula, and there are other squirrels on the peninsula that are competing against it.
The Delmarva peninsula is not very high, so, if sea levels rise by just six feet, the delmarva fox squirrel, which is already struggling to survive, will lose half of its current habitat.
Climbing up a tree to evade ocean waves won’t be a sustainable response.