Unique Seagrass Nursery Aims to Help Florida's Starving Manatees
Published:08 Feb.2022    Source:Florida Atlantic University

The manatee population in Florida was largely impacted last year. More than 1,000 of them died in 2021, due mostly to starvation. They consume about 100 pounds of seagrass a day, and this staple food is now scarce in Florida's Indian River Lagoon, a 156-mile-long estuary along the state's east coast.

Dennis Hanisak, Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is investigating the cause of this seagrass loss and contributing to important restoration efforts in the lagoon. He collaborated on a study with researchers from the St. Johns River Water Management District to examine the extent and cover of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. Researchers used data from two independent lines of evidence -- large-scale maps and fixed transects. Maps documented locations and large ranges of seagrass beds periodically since the 1940s, and surveys of fixed transects generated changes in percent cover and depths at the end of the canopy since 1994.