Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date

11-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Department

Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Caryn Self-Sullivan

Second Advisor

Robert K. Bonde

Third Advisor

James A. Powell

Fourth Advisor

Patrick C. Hardigan

Abstract

Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) seek out warmer waters during winter months when ambient water temperatures drop below 20 degrees Celsius. Over time, manatees have discovered artificial warm water sites from power plant discharges in addition to natural sites such as springs and passive thermal refugia (PTRs). The Florida Power and Light (FPL) Port Everglades power plant in Broward County is one such artificial warm water refuge used by manatees. This plant was shutdown on July 16, 2013, and is expected to remain off line for at least three years during demolition and construction of a new facility. The purpose of this study was to determine changes in habitat usage and other responses to the disruption of a warm water refugia (the closure of a power plant) on Florida manatees within the greater Port Everglades region. From November 15, 2013 to March 31, 2014, manatees were counted at the site via shore line and aerial surveys. Environmental data were collected to determine variables correlated to manatee presence and absense. Two manatees were radio-tagged using remote sensing devices in an effort to identify alternative warm water refugia and feeding areas. Data were collected from state and local organizations and photo-identified manatees were used to analyze for trends in cold stress syndrome (CSS) lesions and watercraft scarring. Results confirmed that manatee presence was positively correlated with heater outlet temperature. Differences did not exist between the results of survey methods between the FPL Port Everglades (PE) and Fort Lauderdale (FL) power plant sites, however, differrences in the aerial survey counts showed an increased presence at the FL site during the colder month of January 2014. Data from tagging identified one manatee that preferred the FL site while another preferred PE, presumably due to more convenient access to feeding grounds in Biscayne Bay. Data from mortality events indicated a low number of CSS and watercraft deaths in Broward County as compared to other parts of the state of Florida. Further monitoring of the study area for the remainder of the shutdown period is recommended, as are improvements in survey design, expansion to include additional environmental data from FL, continued mortality statistic analysis and locating possible PTRs.

Share

COinS