Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2006

Abstract

The Florida manatee is regularly exposed to high volumes of vessel traffic and other human-related noise because of its coastal distribution. Quantifying specific aspects of the manatee’s acoustic environment will allow for a better understanding of how these animals respond to both natural and human-induced changes in their environment. Transmission loss measurements were made in 24 sampling sites that were chosen based on the frequency of manatee presence. The Monterey-Miami Parabolic Equation model was used to relate environmental parameters to transmission loss in two extremely shallow water environments: seagrass beds and dredged habitats. Model accuracy was verified by field tests at all modeled sites. Results indicated that high-use grassbeds have higher levels of transmission loss for frequencies above 2 kHz compared to low-use sites of equal food species composition and density. This also happens to be the range of most efficient sound propagation inside the grassbed habitat and includes the dominant frequencies of manatee vocalizations. The acoustic environment may play a more important role in manatee grassbed selection than seagrass coverage or species composition, as linear regression analysis showed no significant correlation between usage and either total grass coverage, individual species coverage, or aerial pattern.

Comment

James H. Miller is also a professor in the Department of Ocean Engineering.

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