St. Petersburg, FL – The Nature Conservancy in Florida (TNC) has awarded the non-profit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida $70,000 for improving manatee habitat at Warm Mineral Springs Creek in North Port, FL.
Every fall, manatees congregate in Florida’s warmest waters, usually in natural springs or near the outflow of power plants. Warm Mineral Springs Creek and its spring run are the warmest natural spring system in Florida. Its year-round constant temperature of 87 degrees makes it an essential manatee winter habitat for more than 100 manatees.
Historical and current land use, bank erosion, sedimentation and invasive plants are degrading the spring’s quality. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is working with contracted engineers to improve manatee access and restore the spring run to a more natural condition by stabilizing stream banks and removing invasive species and some sediments.
The grant follows $50,000 TNC awarded to the Foundation in February for aerial monitoring of manatees along the Florida Panhandle. Pinpointing manatee locations helps managers determine how many manatees are using the area and allows them to better understand what habitats are important to manatees when they are here, according to FWC biologists. The aerial surveys also help scientists assess the location and condition of seagrass beds and other manatee habitat.
“We are honored by The Nature Conservancy in Florida’s generosity and confidence,” said Foundation CEO Andrew Walker. “Manatees are a growing conservation success story, and we, The Nature Conservancy and FWC are committed to their continued recovery in our state.”
The Nature Conservancy supports collaborative and multifaceted efforts that result in freshwater springs management and protection that ultimately benefit natural systems, people, and the Florida manatee. TNC’s conservation efforts in key springs and springsheds include developing restoration initiatives, springshed planning, land protection and outreach.
“It is vital that we support the valuable work that Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is doing to improve the waters in which Florida manatees thrive. Cold stress is a serious threat to manatees, and it is increasingly necessary to ensure they have healthy, sustainable habitats, including those they can rely on during winter months” said Anne Birch, Marine Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy in Florida.