Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
Florida Coastal Everglades LTER - Project Information
Project Information

Habitat use and movement patterns of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in the Florida Coastal Everglades

Short-term project
Start date: 01-Oct-2007          End date: 01-May-2010
Contact person: Adam Rosenblatt
Funding organization(s):
National Science Foundation

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American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are top predators in the Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE), but their movement patterns and role in the ecosystem are largely unknown. Proposed restoration and management efforts in the Everglades are likely to influence both alligator movements and the spatiotemporal patterns of their effects on ecosystem and community dynamics, making studies of the factors influencing alligator movements important at this time. In October 2007, we initiated a study of alligators in the Shark River Slough of Everglades National Park using two tracking techniques that have yet to be used on crocodilians: GPS tracking and passive acoustic telemetry. GPS units attached to two alligators have provided 120 positions over a two month period while acoustic transmitters attached to 12 alligators have been detected 34,000 times on an array of 8 monitoring stations within the river system. GPS positions are more accurate than acoustic monitoring and can provide data over the entire range an alligator might move, but acoustic transmitters provide more temporally detailed information on movements within a monitoring array and over a longer duration (potentially years rather than months). Our preliminary results show that alligators may remain in localized areas for weeks at a time, but make long-distance moves from the mouth of the river system to the marsh-mangrove ecotone and likely into the marsh. In general, most alligators moved upstream as freshwater inputs decreased, but some individuals remained near the river mouth even when salinities were high. Ultimately, by characterizing alligator movements in relation to spatiotemporal variation in environmental factors we will be able to predict how alligator distributions and populations will respond to planned increases in freshwater flow. Furthermore, movement data combined with dietary and stable isotopic studies may shed light on the possible role of alligators in the redistribution of nutrients throughout the Shark River system.

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National Science Foundation logo This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DEB-1237517, #DBI-0620409, and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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