An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Florida manatees find food and shelter at Myakka

Efforts to protect these imperiled mammals at the state park include removing dams that can leave them stranded and increasing awareness about boat speed limits.

Also known as "sea cows," Florida manatees are federally designated threatened due to boat collisions and habitat loss.

As they feed and rest in shallow waters where they're quite difficult to spot, they're highly vulnerable to boat collisions. With development and pollution destroying seagrass beds and freshwater aquatic vegetation, they've also been losing their main food source in many areas.

These large marine mammals consume approximately 10% of their 1,200-pound-plus body weight in aquatic vegetation a day, therefore preventing overgrowth that could obstruct our Florida waterways. And they provide ample fertilizer to enable water vegetation to thrive! Due to these key roles, manatees are considered a keystone species — without them, aquatic ecosystems would be dramatically different or cease to exist.

Unhealthy or abnormal manatee behavior tells us that something is wrong in the environment, making these gentle giants an important indicator species. Their imperiled status is therefore greatly concerning.

The Wild and Scenic Myakka River meanders through Myakka River State Park all the way to Charlotte Bay to the south, where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. As manatees thrive in both fresh or saltwater, during periods of high water levels, the river offers a gateway to Myakka for aquatic wildlife seeking safe refuge and food. Indeed, to the surprise and delight of park visitors, manatees are regularly observed in the Park.