Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date

10-19-2009

Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Department

Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Edward O. Keith

Second Advisor

Curtis M. Burney

Third Advisor

Patrick Hardigan

Abstract

The seasonal distribution of the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is influenced predominantly by feeding locations in the summer and proximity to warm-water refuges during colder months. Due to their limited ability to tolerate cold water, when water temperatures drop below 20°C manatees congregate around natural and artificial warm-water refuges, such as warm-water springs or power plant outfalls. Distribution may further be influenced by the tidal cycle through its impact on manatee movement and foraging. Although the importance of tide on manatee distribution and habitat selection has been acknowledged, it has yet to be studied quantitatively in respect to the manatee population in southeast Florida. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the tidal cycle on manatee occurrence at the Florida Power & Light (FPL) Port Everglades Power Plant.

Walking surveys were conducted in Port Everglades during manatee season, November 15 – March 31, between 2004 and 2008. During the surveys, the number of manatees in four established locations was noted and the animals categorized based on size as either calf, juvenile, or adult. Water temperature data were also collected at four permanent sample locations.

Because many surveys yielded zero manatees observed, data were analyzed using the zero-inflated negative binomial model. Although the manatees at the Port Everglades Power Plant must forage away from the warm-water refuge, my findings show no correlation between tidal state and total manatee occurrence at the FPL Port Everglades Power Plant. The results do, however, suggest that the probability of observing a cow/calf pair is greater during high tide when compared to low and mid-tides (P < 0.05). Total manatee occurrence and the presence of cow/calf pairs were both significantly correlated with water temperature (P < 0.05).

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