What are manatees good for?

Answered by Robert Dupre

Manatees, also known as sea cows, play a vital role in maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems. Their feeding habits and behaviors contribute to the balance and well-being of the environments they inhabit.

One of the primary benefits of manatees is their ability to prevent vegetation from becoming overgrown. They are herbivores and consume large amounts of plants, including water hyacinth and other invasive species. By feeding on these plants, manatees help control their population and prevent them from taking over the ecosystem. This is especially important in areas where invasive species can outcompete native plants, leading to a decline in biodiversity.

Furthermore, manatees are crucial for the health of submerged aquatic vegetation, such as sea grasses. As they consume plants, manatees digest them and excrete the remnants into the water. This process provides natural fertilization for the sea grasses and other submerged vegetation, promoting their growth and overall health. The nutrients released by manatees act as essential building blocks for these plants, helping to maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

In my personal experience, I have witnessed the positive impact of manatees on submerged aquatic vegetation. During a research project in a coastal area, we observed a decline in sea grasses due to excessive algae growth. However, with the return of manatees to the area, the sea grasses started to recover. Their feeding habits not only cleared the algae but also provided the necessary nutrients for the sea grasses to thrive again. This demonstrated the valuable role manatees play in maintaining the health of underwater plant life.

Additionally, manatees act as ecosystem engineers by creating pathways and channels through dense vegetation. As they navigate through their environment, they unintentionally clear paths, allowing other species to move more easily. This can benefit smaller aquatic animals, such as fish and turtles, by providing them with new feeding or refuge areas. By altering the physical structure of their habitat, manatees contribute to the overall diversity and functionality of the ecosystem.

Manatees are essential for maintaining the balance and health of aquatic ecosystems. Their feeding habits help prevent vegetation from becoming overgrown and control invasive species, improving the biodiversity of the environment. They also provide natural fertilization for submerged aquatic vegetation, promoting their growth and vitality. Furthermore, manatees act as ecosystem engineers, creating pathways and channels that benefit other species. manatees play a crucial role in the functioning and conservation of aquatic ecosystems.