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Creating Habitats to Save the Manatees

marlettemanatees In: Creating Habitats to Save the Manatees | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Used with permission from Andy Marlette and the Pensacola News Journal.

We are  not experts on manatee habitat, but it seems to us that the main problem is caused by water pollution which is caused by humans.  In the history of the manatee in Florida they have survived cold weather quite well for many thousands of years and it is only after humans became a factor that they are slowly dwindling in numbers.

Of course septics and especially agriculture are tough  targets for our fragile politicians who worry about money and re-election, the two most important issues.

So the manatee may be warm but still starve to death.

But a team of scientists is working and money is being spent so we can all rest easy and the manatee will be fine and AG will continue to pollute.

Go to this link to the Naples Daily News to see the original article with photos.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Save the Manatees: Researchers Seeking Ways to Restore, Enhance Warm Water Habitats in Florida

Oct. 5, 2021

Karl Schneider

Naples Daily News

Funding to kickstart the project, around $125,000, comes from NOAA’s RESTORE Science Program, which uses money from penalties paid following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Chip Deutsch, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will lead the project.

Money from NOAA will help Deutsch and the team plan out and prioritize research into warm-water habitats for manatees.

“Managers and researchers will be sitting down together working closely as equal partners to really dissect what management decisions will be decades from now,” he said.

The team will anticipate what information they need to make those decisions and particularly will be prioritizing that info and comparing it to what they already know.

During cooler months, manatees seek out warmer waters. A 2013 report studying manatee habitat preferences shows nearly half of the manatees in found in Florida waters sought the warm waters of power plant outfalls. Natural springs and thermal basins that trap warm water made up the rest.

‘Manatees are all guts’

Kim Pause Tucker, director of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Whitaker Center for STEM Education, said manatees can suffer cold-water stress if waters dip below 68 degrees. Even though they look well insulated, she said manatees don’t have as much of a protective layer of blubber like dolphins and whales.

“Manatees are all guts,” she said. “They’re eating grass, so while dolphins are eating fish, they don’t have to digest plants and ruffage. The whole rotundness of manatees is all intestines.”

The state is seeing a decline in spring discharge from increased human development in areas. The retirement of old technology, such as the power plants along the coast, also contribute to the loss of warm-water habitats.

“Another factor is climate change and sea-level rise,” Tucker said. “Sea-level rise introduces salt water into warm, freshwater areas. All of this is going to decrease the environment’s carrying capacity.”

Springs up north are a popular spot for manatees as water temperatures drop, but access to them has dwindled. In some cases, sediment from development has build up making the waters too shallow for the manatees to enter.

Natural solutions

Deutsch said the project will look to restore some of those areas. The plan is to rely on natural solutions and not look to technology.

“There was interest in solar-heated refuges years ago,” he said. “Solar has come a long way since then, and may be more feasible and less expensive now, but still it is a technology and our interest is in non-tech solutions.”

In some cases, creating new warm-water habitats might be feasible. At the south end of the Picayune Strand State Forest, a manatee refuge was created at the mouth of the Faka Union canal.

“There may be other opportunities like that as well,” Deutsch said. “Where we can take advantage of places where there is some sort of seepage or input of groundwater.”

“If there is no habitat, we could have thousands of manatees, but where are they going to go,” she said. “Protecting habitat is key. If we can’t protect the warm water sources, manatees won’t have anywhere to go.”

Karl Schneider is an environment reporter. You can reach him at Follow on Twitter @karlstartswithk

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1 Comment

  1. I would love to see the human race become less selfish and help restore lost habitat for manatees as well as other water dwelling creatures that have lived here longer than we have. We understand now what it is we have to do , it’s just, are we willing to do it?

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