Skip to main content

Potential impacts of climate change on warmwater megafauna: the Florida manatee example (Trichechus manatus latirostris)

Abstract

Most discussions of impacts of Climate Change have focused on species from temperate or polar regions. Impacts to species inhabiting warm climates are often believed to be small relative to those of species living in cooler climates. However, it is evident that some tropical/sub-tropical species, including some marine megafauna may face potentially serious consequences from a changing climate. For example, larger, warmer oceans may appear to benefit marine wildlife species like cold-sensitive Florida manatees; however, findings regarding the impact of global climate change (GCC) on estuaries and nearshore areas of Florida indicate that predicted impacts of climate change may be detrimental to endangered manatees. An examination of how projected impacts of climate change will affect threats to manatees and their habitat indicates that threats may be exacerbated. The most significant threats to the Florida manatee population, such as cold-stress, watercraft collisions, and harmful algal blooms likely will increase. Habitat is likely to be degraded under future climate scenarios. Alterations to Florida’s marine environment are ongoing, yet current manatee management plans do not consider the impacts of climate change. The ability of manatees to adapt to change will be influenced by the speed of change and the degree to which human activity impedes or alters it. To minimize impacts to species we must recognize the influence GCC may have on populations, and begin to identify and implement ways to slow or reverse negative impacts arising from it.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Archer CL, Calderia K (2008) Historical trends in the jet streams. Am Geophys Union Geophy Res Lett 35, LO8803

    Google Scholar 

  • Barlas ME, Deutsch CJ, de Wit M, Ward-Geiger LI (eds) (2011) Florida manatee cold-related unusual mortality event, January-April 2010. Final report to USFWS (grant 40181AG037). Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, St. Petersburg, FL. 138 p

  • Bender MA, Knutson TR, Tuleya RE, Sirutis JJ et al (2010) Modeled impact of anthropogenic warming on the frequency of intense Atlantic hurricanes. Science 327:454–458

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bloetscher F (2009) Climate change impacts on Florida (with a specific look at groundwater impacts). Fla Water Resour J 2009:14–26

    Google Scholar 

  • Bossart GD, Meisner RA, Rommel SA et al (2003) Pathological features of the Florida manatee cold stress syndrome. Aquat Mamm 29:9–17

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calleson SC, Frohlich RK (2007) Slower boat speeds reduce risks to manatees. Endanger Species Res 3:295–304

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson PR Jr, Yarbro LA, Kaufman KA, Mattson RA (2010) Vulnerability and resilience of seagrass to hurricane and runoff impacts along Florida’s west coast. Hydrobiologia 649:39–53

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carlton JT (1996) Pattern, process, and prediction in marine invasion ecology. Biol Conserv 78:97–106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cerulean S (2008) Wildlife 2060: What’s at stake for Florida? http://myfwc.com/media/129053/FWC2060.pdf)

  • Chen IC, Hill JK, Ohelmüller R et al (2011) Rapid range shifts of species associated with high levels of climate warming. Science 918:1024–1026

    Google Scholar 

  • Cheung WWL, Booth S, Zeller D, Pau D (2009) Impact on climate change on U.S. marine fisheries, with emphasis on the Gulf and Southeast Atlantic States. Sea Around Us Project, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 10 p. http://www.seaaroundus.org/researcher/dpauly/PDF/2009/OtherItems/ImpactOfClimateHCangeOnUSMarineFisheries.pdf

  • Dawes CJ, Tomasko DA (1988) Depth distribution of Thalassia testudinum in two meadows on the west coast of Florida: a difference in effect of light availability. Mar Ecol 9:123–130

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dawson TP, Jackson ST, House JI et al (2011) Beyond predictions: biodiversity conservation in a changing climate. Science 332:53–58

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deutsch CJ, Reid JP, Bonde RK et al. (2003) Seasonal movements, migratory behavior, and site fidelity of West Indian manatees along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Wildl Monogr 151. Supplement to J Wildl Manage 67(1)

  • Deutsch CJ, Reynolds JE III (2012) Florida manatee status and conservation issues: A primer. In: Hines E, Reynolds JE III, Aragones LV, Mignucci-Giannoni AA, Marmontel M (eds) Sirenian conservation: Issues and strategies in developing countries. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, pp 23–35

    Google Scholar 

  • Domning DP (1981) Sea cows and sea grasses. Paleobiology 7:417–420

    Google Scholar 

  • Domning DP (2001) Sirenians, seagrasses, and Cenozoic ecological change in the Caribbean. Palaegeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeocol 166:27–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Domning DP (2005) Fossil Sirenia of the West Atlantic and Caribbean region. VII Pleistocene Trichechus manatus Linnaeus, 1758. J Vertebr Paleontol 25:685–701

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Doney SC (2006) Plankton in a warmer world. Nature 444:695–696

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Easterling DR, Evans JL, Groisman PY et al (2000) Observed variability and trends in extreme climate events: a brief review. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 81:417–425

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Emanuel K (2005) Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436:686–688

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flamm RO, Reynolds JE III, Harmak C (2012) Improving conservation of Florida Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris): Conceptualization and contributions toward a regional warm-water network management strategy for a sustainable winter habitat. Environ Manag. doi:10.1007/s00267-012-9985-4

    Google Scholar 

  • Flewelling LJ, Naar JP, Abott JP et al (2005) Red tides and marine mammal mortalities. Nature 435:755–756

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fourqurean JW, Rutten LM (2004) The impacts of hurricane Georges on the soft-bottom, back reef communities: site-and species-specific effects in south Florida seagrass beds. Bull Mar Sci 75:239–257

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedland KD, Hare JA (2007) Long-term trends and regime shifts in sea surface temperature on the continental shelf of the northeast United States. Cont Shelf Res 27:2313–2328

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gessner BD, Middaugh JP (1995) Paralytic shell fish poisoning in Alaska: a 20-year retrospective analysis. Am J Epidemiol 141:766–770

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldenberg SB, Landsea CW, Mestas-Nuñez AM, Gray WM (2001) The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: causes and implications. Science 293:474–479

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Greening H, Doering P, Corbett C (2006) Hurricane impacts on coastal ecosystems. Estuar Coasts 29:877–879

    Google Scholar 

  • Häder D-P, Kumar HS, Smith RC, Worrest RC (2007) Effects of solar UV raditation on aquatic ecosystems and interactions with climate change. Photochem Photobiol Sci 6:267–285

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hallegraeff GM (2010) Ocean climate change, phytoplankton community response and harmful algal blooms: a formidable predictive challenge. J Phycol 46:220–235

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hansen PJ, Lundholm N, Rost B (2007) Growth limitation in marine red-tide dinoflagellates: effects of pH versus inorganic carbon availability. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 334:63–71

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huntington TG (2006) Evidence for intensification of the global water cycle: review and synthesis. J Hydrol 319:83–95

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaption and vulnerability. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Irvine AB (1983) Manatee metabolism and its influence on the distribution in Florida. Bio Conserv 25:315–334

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kinnaman SL, Dixon JF (2009) Potentiometric surface of the Upper Floridan Aquifer in the St Johns River Water Management District and vicinity, Florida, USGS, Scientific Investigations Map 3091

  • Laist DW, Reynolds JE III (2005) Florida manatees, warm-water refuges, and the uncertain future. Coast Manag 33:279–295

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Landsberg JH (2002) The effects of harmful algal blooms on aquatic organisms. Rev Fish Sci 10:113–390

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Landsberg JH, Steidinger KA (1998) A historical review of Gymnodinium breve red tide implicated in mass mortalities of the manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in Florida, USA. In: Reguera B, Blanco J, Fernandez ML, Wyatt T (eds) Harmful algae, Xunta de Galicia and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, UNESCO, pp 97–100

  • Langtimm CA, Krohn MD, Reid JP et al (2006) Possible effects of the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes on manatee survival rates and movement. Estuaries Coasts 29:1026–1032

    Google Scholar 

  • Lundholm N, Hansen PJ, Kotaki Y (2004) Effect of pH on the growth and domoic acid production by potentially toxic diatoms of the genera Pseudo-nitzschia and Nitzchia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 273:1–15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mallin MA, Corbett CA (2006) How hurricane attributes determine the extent of environmental effects: multiple hurricanes and different coastal systems. Estuar Coasts 29:1046–1061

    Google Scholar 

  • Marcella RL (2008) Water use in Florida 2005 and trends 1950–2005, U.S. Geological Survey Water-resources investigation report 2008–3080

  • Martin J, Fackler PL, Nichols JD et al (2011) Structured decision making as a proactive approach to dealing with sea level rise in Florida. Clim Chang 107:185–202

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marsh H, O’Shea TJ, Reynolds RE III (2011) Ecology and conservation of the sirenia, dugongs and manatees. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • McKenzie RL, Aucamp PJ, Bais AF et al (2011) Ozone depletion and climate change: impacts on UV radiation. Photochem Photobiol Sci 10:182–198

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moore SK, Trainer VL, Mantua NJ et al (2008) Impacts of climate variability and future climate change on harmful algal blooms and human health. Environ Health 7:S4. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-7-S2-S4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morris D, Walls M (2009) Climate change and outdoor recreation resources. Resources for the Future. http://www.rff.org/RFF/Documents/RFF-BCK-ORRG_ClimateChange.pdf. Accessed 16 July 2012

  • National Wildlife Federation (2006) An unfavorable tide: Global warming, coastal habitats and sportfishing in Florida. National Wildlife Federation, Reston, 56 p

    Google Scholar 

  • NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (2008): The USHCN Version 2 Serial Monthly Dataset. [Web site] <http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/ushcn/>

  • Noyes PD, McElwee MK, Miller HD et al (2009) The toxicology of climate change: environmental contaminants in a warming world. Environ Int 35:971–986

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Overholtz WA, Hare JA, Keith CM (2011) Impacts of interannual environmental forcing and climate change on the distribution of Atlantic mackerel on the U.S. northeast continental shelf. Mar Coast Fish Dynam Manag Ecosys Sci 3(1):219–232

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parmesan C, Yohe G (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421(2):37–42

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parris A, Bromirski P, Burkett V et al (2012) Global sea level rise scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment

  • Preen AR, Lee WJ, Coles RG (1995) Flood and cyclone related loss, and partial recovery, of more than1000 km2 of seagrass in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia. Aquat Bio 52:3–17

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Preen AR, Marsh HD (1995) Response of dugongs to large-scale loss of seagrass from Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia. Wildl Res 22:205–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ragen TJ, Huntington HP, Hovelsrud GK (2008) Conservation of Arctic marine mammals faced with climate change. Ecol Appl 18(2 Suppl):S166–S174

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rahmstorf S (2010) A new view on sea level rise. Nature. doi:10.1038/climate.2010.29

    Google Scholar 

  • Rauscher SA, Kucharski F, Enfield DB (2011) The role of regional SST warming variations in the drying of Meso-America in future climate projections. J Clim 24:2003–2016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reich KJ, Worthy GAJ (2006) An isotopic assessment of the feeding habits of free-ranging manatees. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 322:303–309

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ross MS, O’Brien JJ, Sternberg LL (1994) Sea-level rise and the reduction in pine forest in the Florida Keys. Ecol Appl 4:144–156

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Runge MC, Langtimm CA, Kendell WL (2004) A stage-based model of manatee population dynamics. Mar Mam Sci 20:361–385

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Runge MC, Sanders-Reed CA, Langtimm CA, Fonnesbeck CJ (2007) A quantitative threats analysis for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007–1086 34 p

  • Rutledge AT (1985) Ground-water hydrology of Volusia County, Florida, with emphasis on occurrence and movement of brackish water. Water-Resources Investigations Report 84–4206, U.S. Geological Survey 84 p

  • Saha S, Bradley K, Ross S et al (2011) Hurricane effects on subtropical pine rocklands of the Florida Keys. Clim Chang 107:169–184

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scavia D, Field JC, Boesch DF et al (2002) Climate change impacts on U.S. coastal and marine ecosystems. Estuaries 25:149–164

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schumann N, Gales NJ, Harcourt RG, Arnould JPY (2013) Impacts of climate change on Australian marine mammals. Aust J Zool 61:146-159

    Google Scholar 

  • Short FT, Wyllie-Echeverria S (1996) Natural and human-induced disturbance of seagrass. Environ Conserv 23:17–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Short FT, Neckles HA (1999) The effects of global climate change on seagrasses. Aqua Bot 63:169–196

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stapleton AE (1992) Ultraviolet radiation and plants: burning questions. Plant Cell 4:1353–1358

    Google Scholar 

  • Stanton EA, Ackerman F (2007) Florida and climate change: the costs of inaction. Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University and Stockholm Environment Institute–US Center, Tufts University, Medford, MA

  • Steward JS, Virnstein RW, Lasi MA et al (2006) The impacts of the 2004 hurricanes on the hydrology, water quality and seagrass in the central Indian River Lagoon. Florida 29:954–965

    Google Scholar 

  • Stith B, Slone DH, deWit M et al (2012) Passive thermal refugia provided warm water for Florida manatees during the severe winter of 2009–2010. Mar Pro Ser 62:287–301

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • SWFWMD (Southwest Florida Water Management District) (2001) Hydrology and water quality of select springs in the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Prepared by the Water Quality Monitoring Program 148 p

  • Tewksbury JJ, Raymond BH, Deutsch CA (2008) Putting the heat on tropical animals. Science 320:1296–1297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2001) Florida manatee recovery plan, (Trichechus manatus latirostris), 3rd rev. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, 144 p

    Google Scholar 

  • U.S. Global Change Research Program (2009) http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts/full-report

  • Vavrus S, Walsh JE, Chapman WL, Portis D (2006) The behavior of extreme cold-air outbreaks under greenhouse warming. Int J Climatol 26:1133–1147

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Von Holle B, Wei Y, Nickerson D (2010) Climatic variability leads to later seasonal flowering of Floridian plants. PLoS ONE 5(7):e11500

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wall G (1998) Implications of climate change for tourism and recreation in wetland areas. Clim Chang 40:371–389

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walsh JE, Phillips AS, Portis DH, Chapman WL (2001) Extreme cold outbreaks in the United States and in Europe, 1948–99. J Clim 14:2642–2658

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walsh JJ, Steidinger KA (2001) Saharan dust and Florida red tides: the cyanophyte connection. J Geophys Res Oceans 106:11,597–11,612

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Webster PJ, Holland GJ, Curry JA, Chang HR (2005) Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment. Science 309:1844–1846

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Worthy GAJ (2001) Nutrition and Energetics. In: Dierauf LA, Gulland MD (eds) CRC handbook of marine mammal medicine, 2nd edn. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 791–817

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

I thank Tom Reinert, Julien Martin, Kent Smith, Martine de Wit, Chip Deutsch, Leslie Ward, Ron Mezich, Paul Carlson, Karen Steidinger, Leanne Flewelling, David Laist and one anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Holly H. Edwards.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

ESM 1

(DOCX 30.9 kb)

ESM 2

Locations of manatee warmwater aggregation sites (stars) and water elevations for Southwest Florida. GIS coastal evaluations provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) http://maps.risingsea.net/data.html (PDF 2.08 mb)

ESM 3

Locations of manatee warmwater aggregation sites (stars) and water elevations for the Southwest and Atlantic coast of Florida. GIS coastal evaluations provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) http://maps.risingsea.net/data.html (PDF 2.67 mb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Edwards, H.H. Potential impacts of climate change on warmwater megafauna: the Florida manatee example (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Climatic Change 121, 727–738 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0921-2

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0921-2

Keywords

  • Climate Change Impact
  • Harmful Algal Bloom
  • Indian River Lagoon
  • Population Viability Analysis
  • Influence Global Climate Change