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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 38:29-43 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00933

Coastal habitat change and marine megafauna behavior: Florida manatees encountering reduced food provisions in a prominent winter refuge

Chanda J. Littles1,5,*, Robert K. Bonde2, Susan M. Butler2, Charles A. Jacoby3, Sky K. Notestein4, James P. Reid2, Daniel H. Slone2, Thomas K. Frazer1

1School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
2Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, US Geological Survey, Gainesville, FL 32653, USA
3Soil and Water Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
4Southwest Florida Water Management District, Brooksville, FL 34606, USA
5Present address: US Army Corps of Engineers, Portland, OR 97204, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A decline in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) within Florida’s spring-fed thermal refuges raises questions about how these systems support winter foraging of Florida manatees Trichechus manatus latirostris. We analyzed telemetry data for 12 manatees over 7 yr to assess their use of Kings Bay, a winter refuge with diminished SAV. After accounting for the effect of water temperature, we hypothesized that the number of trips out of Kings Bay would increase and the time wintering manatees spent in Kings Bay would decrease. Trips out of and into Kings Bay were also compared to assess potential influences on exiting or entering. There were no detectable differences in the number of trips out of the bay or overall time manatees spent in Kings Bay across winters. The percentage of time water temperatures were below 20°C was the single best predictor of increased time spent in Kings Bay. Trips out of Kings Bay were more likely than trips into the bay to occur after 12:00 h and during a high but ebbing tide. Nine manatees tracked for longer than 75 d in winter spent 7 to 57% of their time in the Gulf of Mexico, and 3 of these manatees spent 7 to 65% of the winter >80 km from the mouth of Kings Bay. Results suggest the low amount of SAV in Kings Bay does not obviate its use by manatees, though there are likely tradeoffs for manatees regularly foraging elsewhere. Accounting for movements of Florida manatees through a network of habitats may improve management strategies and facilitate desirable conservation outcomes.


KEY WORDS: Trichechus manatus latirostris · Kings Bay · Telemetry · Forage · Florida springs · Thermal refuge


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Correction 
Cite this article as: Littles CJ, Bonde RK, Butler SM, Jacoby CA and others (2019) Coastal habitat change and marine megafauna behavior: Florida manatees encountering reduced food provisions in a prominent winter refuge. Endang Species Res 38:29-43. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00933

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