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Urban Development and Ecological Dependence in the Florida Everglades: A Case Study on the West Indian Manatee

Presenters Name: 
Susannah Gilmore
Co Presenters Name: 
Primary Research Mentor: 
Deborah Lawrence
Secondary Research Mentor: 
Phoebe Crisman
9:30 - 10:15
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 9:30am to 10:15am
Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
Not a Recipient

The rapid urbanization and industrialization of southern Florida in the 1940s onward transformed the natural landscape in ways that permanently altered the original ecosystem, forcing plant and animal species to either quickly adapt, migrate, or face extinction. The altered landscape has endangered many species, yet has simultaneously allowed others to flourish due to their ability to assimilate and prosper in these new urban and industrial areas. When addressing the issue of habitat loss, a new problem arises as certain species have become reliant on the very urban sprawl that damages the environment. This issue, which I have labeled “ecological dependence,” is one whose full extent we are just beginning to realize. Through observational studies and statistical research, my thesis analyzes the effects of urban development on the West Indian Manatee, a once-endangered species that has experienced a massive population increase due to the creation of warm-water refuges by industrial infrastructure. As the state of Florida seeks to restore the altered everglade landscape back to its natural state in response to mass biodiversity loss and an influx of invasive species, researchers have raised concerns that a complete restoration could reverse the manatee population’s recovery. Therefore, I propose that a method of modified restoration is necessary in which the natural landscape must be reintegrated with the densely urbanized region to allow for both the continued prosperity of species dependent on recent infrastructure as well as the recovery of species that have diminished as a result of salinity change and habitat loss.