Manatee Manatee
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Ten Thousand Islands/Everglades Restoration Study

Ten Thousand Islands Study Area

The Sirenia Project's research on manatees in the Ten Thousand Islands area of Southwest Florida is part of a much larger research project being conducted by the USGS/Florida Caribbean Science Center (which the Sirenia Project is part of.)

The big question in this study is what impact would future changes in water quantity and quality have on ecosystems which provide food and other support for animals that use the area as habitat? This is especially important to an endangered species like the manatee. Negative changes to the habitat and ecosystems they depend on could have serious consequences for their delicate future.

As the study synopsis states, "this research addresses the most basic major issue i.e., 'How will hydrological changes in quantity and quality of freshwater impact downstream aquatic habitats?'". (See synopsis of study below)

The manatee uses the waters of this area as habitat, so the study question for the manatee is "how would possible changes in the water in this area impact the seagrasses which the manatees feed on? And what will this mean for the manatee's ability to use this area for habitat?"

Other animals using this area and might also be impacted by changes in the quantity and quality of water. For instance, mangrove areas here provide habitat for a wide range of animal species, especially fishes and decapod crustaceans. These species have historically been know as food for wading birds. One of the goals of Everglades Restoration is return of extensive wading bird rookeries to these headwater mangroves. Therefore the study is looking at another important question: "how would possible changes in the water here affect the fish and crustaceans in the mangroves, which returning wading birds would feed on?"

Try This! Journaling Questions
Manatee feeding on floating seagrass and mangrove leaves


Take a look at the factors below, which connect the manatee to its habitat. In your journal, explain how each factor is connected to the next, and how the manatees could be affected. (See synopsis of study above for further information)

  1. Manatees inhabit the coastal rivers, canals, and estuaries in the Ten Thousand Islands area.

  2. Manatees utilize seagrasses for feeding in this area.

  3. The seagrass types in this area appear to be quite sensitive to changes in salinity (salt) in the water.

  4. Changes in freshwater flows in the area may affect the salinity of the water in the Ten Thousand Islands areas.

  5. Water flows in the Ten Thousand Islands area are projected to change as a result of Everglades Restoration.

Try This! Water Web
Have students illustrate the relationships or "Web" between the 5 factors listed above, so they can visualize them. Start with proper water quality and go all the way up to manatees using the area for habitat. Students should include labels for each stage in the relationships, and a title for the completed page. For guidance, take a look at the Seeing the Light Lesson, and have students substitute proper water quality in place of the sun.

Think how water quality affects the food web for other creatures in the area. For instance, how might water quality affect fishes and crustaceans, and future returning wading birds who use the area as habitat?

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