Keys Tidal Rock Barren

within Estuarine/Marine (system wide)

Photo: Kimberely Gulledge, FNAI


Very High
lower vulnerability
higher vulnerability

General Information

Keys tidal rock barren is a flat rockland with exposed limestone in supratidal zone. it is inundated by salt water only during extreme high tides. This community is restricted to the Florida keys on limestone bedrock along shores facing both Florida Bay and the Straits of Florida. It consists of mainly herbaceous vegetation of upper tidal marsh species and stunted shrubs and tree, including buttonwood, perennial glasswort, saltwort, seaside oxeye, saltgrass, seashore dropseed, and marsh fimbry.

Fire does not occur in this community.


  • 3,448 hectares within Florida (modeled)
  • 2,811 hectares (82%) is located on public lands

Area impacted by up to 3 meters sea level rise:

100%1 meter100%3 meters0.1%not impacted

Climate Impacts

The Keys tidal rock barren community is at high risk of complete habitat loss, with 100% of the current area likely to be inundated by a 1 m rise in sea level. The plants found here are already highly adapted to isolated patches and high salinity levels. However, due to the isolated and patchy nature of this community and its association with flat exposed limestone, it is not likely that it will be able to successfully migrate inland to new suitable sites as sea levels rise.

More information about general climate impacts to habitats in Florida.

Climate Impacts to Species

The plant species composition may not change much as the typical plants are already adapted to salt spray and some inundation by salt water. This community is known more for its uniqueness and rare plant species, including the Florida semaphore cactus.

More information about general climate impacts to species in Florida.

Other Non-climate Threats

Non-climate threats have not been assessed for this habitat.

More information about climate change interactions with existing threats and stressors in Florida.

Vulnerability Assessment Details

This habitat was assessed as part of the Standardized Index of Vulnerability and Value Assessment - Natural Communities (SIVVA).

This habitat is within the top 5 SIVVA most vulnerable natural communities or in the top 5 in most of the SIVVA vulnerability categories.

Read more information about SIVVA natural communities.

Adaptation Strategies


  • Develop ex-situ living collections of unique/endemic plant species with partners such as botanic gardens and arboreta.
  • Consider relocating rare species to higher elevation areas when critical populations may be affected by impacts from sea level rise (e.g., inundation).
  • Preserve remaining keys tidal rock barrens and buffers that will enhance species migration corridors.
  • Reduce or eliminate mosquito spraying on and adjacent to keys tidal rock barrens.


  • Remove existing invasive species.
  • Remove new invasive species before they become established.


  • Plan timing of restoration activities to avoid impacts on rare species during critical life history phases and during times of increased stress due to impacts from climate change.
  • Identify areas particularly vulnerable to loss or transition under climate change and develop management strategies and approaches for adaptation.
  • Incorporate climate change considerations into new and future revisions of species and area management plans.


  • Provide greater regulation and enforcement of recreational use and access restrictions.
  • Reduce public access to areas as they become stressed/impacted by climate change and more susceptible to non-climate stressors.

Education and Outreach

  • Work with volunteers to control invasive species.
  • Work with communities and landowners to choose native vegetation in favor of non-native vegetation.
  • Provide education and incentives for neighboring landowners to reduce critical invasive plants and assist in detection of new species.
  • Work with local communities to remove dumped debris, e.g., construction materials, landscape debris, automobile parts, trash.

More information about adaptation strategies.

Additional Resources