manatee, telemetry, habitat use, habitat selection, habitat preference, seasonal use, diel use, multi-response permutation procedure, MRPP, nonmetric multidimensional scaling, NMS;


State and Federal agencies have created sanctuaries and speed zones to help reduce manatee mortality while incorporating the recreational and commercial resource needs of these same habitats for humans. Specific habitat resources are considered necessary to increase manatee survivorship. We have only recently begun to address how manatees use some of these resources based on physiological or reproductive strategies. In this study, I quantified patterns of habitat use during seasonal and diel periods for different sex and reproductive manatee classes using data from a radio-telemetry study conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission during 1991-1996. I used five environmental geographic data layers: bathymetry, distance to seagrass, distance to shoreline, distance to warm water refuge sites, and distance to fresh water sources, to discriminate seasonal and diel habitat use patterns for different manatee classes: males (M), females with calves (FWC), and females without calves (FNC). Mean occupancy values were calculated for environmental variable locations and seasonal, diel, and manatee class differences were tested using a Multi-Response Permutation Procedure (MRPP). Nonmetric Multidimensional Scaling (NMS) was used to visualize the ordination patterns of the manatee classes and to assess importance of correlated environmental variables. Significant differences in habitat use were noted between summer and winter based on distances to warm water, seagrass, and fresh water sources but similar habitat use patterns were exhibited within summer diel periods among manatee classes. All manatee classes appeared to have used a higher proportion of locations closer in proximity to seagrass at night than day in winter indicating a disproportionate difference in feeding bouts between diel periods. These differences may be attributed to adjusting feeding strategies to reduce thermoregulatory costs or to decrease human interactions. Differences in patterns were exhibited for the winter diel periods specifically for the FWC manatee classes during winter days. FWC had a higher proportion of locations within the warm water refuges during the day indicating a possible trade off situation between food consumption and thermal exposure. This study demonstrates coarse and fine scale patterns of variation in habitat use for manatees both seasonally and daily within winter. It also suggests that during winter months, manatees were not just utilizing their habitat but they appeared to have preferences and selection for certain habitat types. Recovery of a species is greatly enhanced when patterns of habitat use within the species' environment has been clearly defined. Understanding more specifically what types of habitats manatees choose might allow management to adjust strategies for protection of key habitats while encouraging further recovery of this species.


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Weishampel, John


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Sciences



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Masters Thesis (Open Access)

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