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.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Conservation Biology; Integrative Biology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Hall, Madison, "Seascape Genetics and Rehabilitation Efficiency in the Florida Manatee" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6499.