Status and threats analysis for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), 2016

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5030
Prepared in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
By: , and 



Trichechus manatus (West Indian manatee), especially T. m. latirostris, the Florida subspecies, has been the focus of conservation efforts and extensive research since its listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. To determine the status of, and severity of threats to, the Florida manatee, a comprehensive revision and update of the manatee Core Biological Model was completed and used to perform a population viability analysis for the Florida manatee. The probability of the Florida manatee population falling below 500 adults on either the Gulf or East coast within the next 100 years was estimated to be 0.42 percent. This risk of quasi-extinction is low because the estimated adult survival rates are high, the current population size is greater than 2,500 on each coast, and the estimated carrying capacity for manatees is much larger than the current abundance estimates in all four regions of Florida. Three threats contribute in roughly equal measures to the risk of quasi-extinction: watercraft-related mortality, red-tide mortality, and loss of warm-water habitat. Only an increase in watercraft-related mortality has the potential to substantially increase the risk of quasi-extinction at the statewide or coastal level. Expected losses of warm-water habitat are likely to cause a major change in the distribution of the population from the regions where manatees rely heavily on power plant effluents for warmth in winter (Southwest and Atlantic regions) to the regions where manatees primarily use natural springs in winter (Northwest and Upper St. Johns regions). The chances are nearly 50 percent that manatee populations in the Southwest and Atlantic regions will decrease from their 2011 levels by at least 30 percent over the next century.

A large number of scenarios were examined to explore the possible effects of potential emerging threats, and in most of them, the risk of quasi-extinction at the coastal scale within 100 years did not rise above 1 percent. The four exceptions are scenarios in which the rate of watercraft-related mortality increases, carrying capacity is only a fraction of the current estimates, a new chronic source of mortality emerges, or multiple threats emerge in concert. Even in these scenarios, however, the risk of falling below 500 adults on either the East coast or the Gulf coast within 100 years from 2011 is less than 10 percent. High adult survival provides the population with strong resilience to a variety of current and future threats. On the basis of these analyses, we conclude that if these threats continue to be managed effectively, manatees are likely to persist on both coasts of Florida and remain an integral part of the coastal Florida ecosystem through the 21st century. If vigilance in management is reduced, however, the scenarios in which manatees could face risk of decline become more likely.

Suggested Citation

Runge, M.C., Sanders-Reed, C.A., Langtimm, C.A., Hostetler, J.A., Martin, Julien, Deutsch, C.J., Ward-Geiger, L.I., and Mahon, G.L., 2017, Status and threats analysis for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), 2016: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigation Report 2017–5030, 40 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results 
  • Discussion
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Status and threats analysis for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), 2016
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2017-5030
DOI 10.3133/sir20175030
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Eastern Ecological Science Center
Description ix, 40 p.
Country United States
State Florida
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details