Using Ecological Modelling to Assess the Long-Term Survival of the West-Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) in the Panama Canal
Morales, Narkis S. [Univ Mayor, Fac Ciencias, Ctr Modelac & Monitoreo Ecosistemas, Chile]
There is evidence of a thriving population of West-Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) in the Panama Canal, although it is not clear if they are descendants of a small group of introduced manatees or if manatees have entered the Canal from the Caribbean through the Canal locks. This study describes the development and application of an individual-based model to assess the survival of a population of West-Indian manatees in the Panama Canal. In addition, we seek to determine the effects of isolation, predation, and mortality on long term survival. The model was parameterized using empirical data collected from the literature to every extent possible. A sensitivity analysis was performed to evaluate the model's sensitivity to changes in the used parameters. Four scenarios were modeled to understand under which conditions the original population could have been maintained over time. Our results show that the manatee population would have collapsed quite quickly after its initial introduction and that only through the addition of several individuals into the lake over the years could the population have survived until the present day. Our results have important implications for the long-term conservation of this endangered species.
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