What’s going on?

Tropicalization describes a warming climate that transforms temperate ecosystems by allowing tropical organisms to move with temperature changes. For example, species like manatees, monarch butterflies, and mangroves have all been subjected to tropicalization. 

A warming climate means fewer extreme cold events. When an area has fewer of these cold events, tropical species can enter the region without the intolerance they may have against cold conditions. Florida is considered a tropical-temperature transition zone, with tropical species governed by cold-temperature extremes.  

Tropicalization is a global trend that exists both on land and in the ocean. Corals and tropical fish were able to move from the tropics into temperate Japanese waters and mangroves are growing further along the coastline of Florida.  

Why it matters.

The process of tropicalization impacts the environment and the species already living in the habitat. For example, salt marshes, which are cold-tolerant ecosystems, are being grown over by mangroves. This changes the habitat and some of the species that exist within that habitat. The absence of cold events can create population growth, mass landscape changes and range expansion of organisms that may affect the ecology of local systems.  

Marine species are facing more of the effects of tropicalization because of warming seas and marine heat waves. This is because the species affected have more ability to move to a climate that best suits their ecological demands.  

What you can do.

Organizations like the Global Center of Adaptation recommend nature-based solutions in the fight against climate change and resilience. Having living shorelines or physical infrastructure in place to protect against severe weather events because of climate change is important.  

Tropicalization is the result of climate change. To restore healthy ecosystem processes, rapid and human-caused climate change will need to slow. Raising awareness to counter climate skepticism is important to remove the stigma associated with a warming climate that is changing the world that we live in.