Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) overwintering in the Ten Thousand Islands and western Everglades have no access to power plants or major artesian springs that provide warm-water refugia in other parts of Florida. Instead, hundreds of manatees aggregate at artificial canals, basins, and natural deep water sites that act as passive thermal refugia (PTR). Monitoring at two canal sites revealed temperature inverted haloclines, which provided warm salty bottom layers that generally remained above temperatures considered adverse for manatees. At the largest PTR, the warmer bottom layer disappeared unless significant salt stratification was maintained by upstream freshwater inflow over a persistent tidal wedge. A detailed three-dimensional hydrology model showed that salinity stratification inhibited vertical convection induced by atmospheric cooling. Management or creation of temperature inverted haloclines may be a feasible and desirable option for resource managers to provide passive thermal refugia for manatees and other temperature sensitive aquatic species.
Additional publication details
Temperature inverted haloclines provide winter warm-water refugia for manatees in southwest Florida
Estuaries and Coasts
Southeast Ecological Science Center, Florida Water Science Center