Abstract

The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) was recently downlisted federally from "endangered" to "threatened" despite acknowledgments of remaining threats to long term population persistence. Challenges to future manatee conservation include, but are not limited to, increases in frequency of harmful algal blooms, intensifying anthropogenic disturbance, and loss of warm-water habitat. The goals of this dissertation were 1) to assess threats to the manatee via a comprehensive, long-term (1973-2016), retrospective analysis of the manatee rescue and rehabilitation partnership (MRRP) and 2) to use seascape genetics analysis to examine whether abiotic, biotic, or anthropogenic seascape variables could significantly describe genetic distance patterns in space for this genetically depauperate population. Results from the MRRP analysis revealed that anthropogenic threats were the most significant reason for manatees to be rescued and rehabilitated. Manatees rescued due to watercraft injuries spent long periods in recovery before succumbing or being released resulting in significant expense to the rehabilitation system. Additionally, the seascape genetics analysis indicated that watercraft activity best explained spatial genetic patterns in the manatee population. It is established that anthropogenic use of watercraft negative affects manatees through the mechanisms of sub-lethal injury and mortality, and these results suggest there may be further negative impacts via the disruption of population genetic connectivity. Future management practices should seriously consider manatee/vessel interactions as watercraft strikes are costly for management, place pressure on the manatee population, and could disrupt population gene flow with potentially dire consequences. Mitigating anthropogenic impacts on the Florida manatee population is critical for future conservation and should be a primary focus.

Notes

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Graduation Date

2019

Semester

Summer

Advisor

Worthy, Graham

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

College

College of Sciences

Department

Biology

Degree Program

Conservation Biology; Integrative Biology

Format

application/pdf

Identifier

CFE0007647

URL

http://purl.fcla.edu/fcla/etd/CFE0007647

Language

English

Release Date

August 2020

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)

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