Understanding the Link Between Habitat Protection and Endangered Species: A Case Study of the Florida Manatee
February 16, 2022
In late 2021 and continuing into 2022, in the U.S. state of Florida, an ecological disaster has led to the deaths of more than 1,500 endangered manatees. These enormous, gentle giant marine mammals feed on seagrass in shallow coastal areas, but a massive die-off of seagrass has left them without enough to eat. In some of their most critical grazing habitat, more than 90% of the seagrass, the manatee’s main food source, has died. The record number of manatee deaths is an estimated 15% of the total Florida population.
Coastal development and pollution are the main reasons why seagrass is disappearing and killing manatees not only in Florida but Belize as well. Meadows of seagrass are among the most important features in any coastal ecosystem. They prevent erosion, clean the water, provide shelter for fish, and for a wide range of animals, including manatees, they’re food. Algae pose a problem because seagrasses need sunlight to grow. Fed by nutrients in pollution, such as septic discharge and farm runoff, algae can become so abundant that they actually block light from reaching the lagoon’s floor – killing seagrass ecosystems and all creatures that rely on them.
In Belize, seagrass ecosystems are under the same threats and disappearing at alarming rates. Please do your part and keep our oceans clean and if you live near a coastal area make sure your septic system is under code and environmentally safe!