Record numbers of endangered manatees are dying as polluted waters kill off their food sources
Florida wildlife officials will undertake a manatee feeding and rescue operation involving hand-feeding the mammals romaine lettuce, amid unprecedented mortality among the gentle aquatic creatures affectionately known as “sea cows”.
Typically, manatees return to warm water winter feeding grounds, where they feast on plentiful seagrass.
But algal blooms from polluted waters have devastated seagrass beds,
When infected with eelgrass wasting disease, blades of eelgrass develop black and brown splotches (‘lesions’) that can spread and kill the blade. Credit: Olivia Graham/Cornell University
Every year, the world loses an estimated 7 percent of its seagrasses. While the reasons are manifold, one culprit has long confounded scientists: eelgrass wasting disease.
This September a team of biologists is zeroing in on the problem, in the first study of the
In the past, salinity throughout Florida Bay was much lower, before freshwater flow from Lake Okeechobee was disconnected from the Everglades during the first half of the 20th Century. This is widely accepted and supported by our understanding of the hydrology of the historic Everglades (Light and Dineen 1994; McIvor et al. 1994).
The changes that ensued are also evident in the paleo-record of organisms preserved in bay sediments over