Wetland Wonders at Ocean Commotion

Can you figure out the mystery coastal item based on the following clues? It contains a bivalve that a) makes pearls, b) is a filter feeder, and c) we eat here in Louisiana.

Over 1600 elementary and middle school students had the chance to read those clues at LSU Sea Grant’s Ocean Commotion on October 24 in Baton Rouge. Students, teachers, and chaperones then reached their hands into a box and tried to identify the item (oyster shell) they were holding. Other mystery items included a nutria pelt, cypress knees, an apple snail shell, and a magnolia seed pod- all from plants and animals that call Louisiana’s coastal wetlands home.

2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of Ocean Commotion, an annual event meant to give students the chance to get up close and personal with coastal and sea life and the challenges facing those environments. This year 70 exhibitors taught students about topics as diverse as boating safety, mosquito control, and microplastics. CWPPRA outreach staff talked with students about the diversity of species found in Louisiana’s wetlands and the challenges of invasive species, giving students an opportunity to think about how different species impact ecosystems in different ways.

 

The Bald Cypress

In 1963, the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) was designated as Louisiana’s official state tree. The bald cypress’s deciduous character, unlike most conifers gives, it a “bald” appearance. This type of tree is rather majestic and can be spotted in the swamps of Louisiana. It has a swollen, ridged trunk at the base; widespread branches; reddish-brown bark; and roots that often cause what we know as cypress knees to appear around the tree. Although the bald cypress is widely adaptable, it prefers to grow in wet, swampy soils. Riverbanks, floodplains, and wet depressions are specific areas in which the bald cypress thrives.

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Bald cypresses provide habitat benefits to terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. The Louisiana forestry industry is also dependent on these cypress trees to contribute to a productive annual harvest with large monetary returns on the lumber and cypress mulch produced. The Atchafalaya Basin makes up a large share of the coastal wetlands, and more the half of the acreage of the Atchafalaya basin is cypress wetland forest. The bald cypresses of the wetlands are important to Louisiana’s culture, animal habitats, and the economy. Maintaining healthy cypress wetlands is critical to maintaining a natural storm buffer, filtering polluted water, providing irreplaceable habitats, and sustaining a thriving economy.

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Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Cycle I

CS-28-1-01

The project is intended to strategically create marsh in large,
open water areas to block wind-induced saltwater
introduction and freshwater loss. In addition, it will increase
nourishment in adjacent marshes while reducing open water
fetch (distance a wave can travel) and the erosion of marsh
fringe.

Cycle I constructed 214 acres of marsh within the shallow,
open water area within retention dikes. The perimeter of the
created marsh was planted with smooth cordgrass. Dredged
slurry obtained from the Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging
of the Calcasieu River Ship Channel was placed in the
containment area.

Upon consolidation of the dredged material, the southern
containment dike was degraded and breached to allow for
water movement and restore the area to more natural
conditions. Prior to the placement of dredged material,
trenasses (small, man-made bayous) were constructed in the
project area. These trenasses facilitate natural conditions and
allow estuarine organisms to access the created marsh. This
project is part of five cycles over a 10-year period with each
cycle requiring individual construction approval.

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The Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Project is located in the
Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, west of LA Highway 27, in
large, open water areas north and northwest of Brown’s Lake
in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Priority Project List 8 funded $5.9 million to complete
construction of a permanent pipeline and one cycle of marsh
creation. Engineering analyses at the time indicated that the
construction of a temporary pipeline would be more cost
effective. Therefore, a temporary pipeline was utilized for
Cycle I. However, further analysis determined that a
permanent pipeline would be advantageous. In 2004,
additional funds for engineering and design and construction
were approved for Cycles II and III. Funds for Cycle II
include the construction of a permanent dredged material
pipeline.

Construction of the Cycle I site was completed on February
26, 2002.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 8.

The Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Cycle I’s three sponsors include:

View more data on the CS-28-1 project or other projects on CWPPRA’s website.

National Wildlife Refuge

The National Wildlife Refuge System includes public lands and waters that are set aside to conserve America’s wildlife and vegetation. The protected areas of the National Wildlife Refuge are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Since initiation in the early 1900s, the system has grown immensely to over 500 National Wildlife Refuges.

A variety of habitats are managed by the National Wildlife Refuges, including wetlands, prairies, coastal and marine areas just to name a few.  Conserving the threatened or endangered species of these habitats is a primary focus of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Employees must manage the refuge by controlling invasive species, securing adequate water resources, and assessing external threats to the protected area.

If you’re interested in outdoor recreational activities like hunting, birding, fishing or even environmental education, National Wildlife Refuges welcome guests to participate in the year-round fun that can be found at a refuge in any of the fifty states. You can find a National Wildlife Refuge you would like to visit by clicking here.

 NWRS map

Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website to read more information and updates about the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Non-Rock Alternative to Shoreline Protection Demonstration

LA-16-01

Several shoreline areas within coastal Louisiana consist
of unstable soil conditions, subsurface obstructions,
accessibility problems, etc., which severely limit the
alternatives of shoreline protection. The adopted standard
across the state, where conditions allow, is the use of rock
aggregate in either a revetment or foreshore installation. The
major advantages of using rock are durability, longevity,
and effectiveness. However, in areas where rock is not
conducive for use and site limitations exist, current “proven”
alternatives that provide equivalent advantages are limited.

Several “new” concepts of providing shoreline protection
have surfaced in the last couple of years. These concepts
however, have not been researched or installed due mainly
to budget limitations or the apprehension of industry,
landowners, and others to “try” an unproven product. The
intent of this demonstration project is to provide a funding
mechanism to research, install, and monitor various shoreline
protection alternatives in an area(s) of the state where
physical, logistical and environmental limitations preclude
the use of current adopted methods.

 

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The project is applicable statewide.

This demonstration project is currently in the planning
phase. A solicitation package is being prepared.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 18.

The Non-Rock Alternative to Shoreline Protection Demonstration sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

School’s in Session

Are you interested in learning more about coastal restoration in Louisiana? Perhaps, you are looking for a fun, easy way to educate on coastal restoration topics. Either way, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act has the tools for you. Visit our website to find a wetland curriculum for teachers, activity books for children, printed materials, interactive games, quizzes and more.

Click the links below to join in on the fun!

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Giant Salvinia

Giant Salvinia, or Salvinia adnata, often referred to as the green monster, poses a serious threat to wetland ecosystems. This highly invasive, aquatic plant species is native to Brazil. The floating aquatic fern has leaves covered with small hairs on the upper surface that become compressed into chains forming a dense, compiled mat-like structure. In the United States, it’s difficult to control Giant Salvinia due to the lack of legal herbicides that work efficiently to stop it from spreading. Giant Salvinia was first spotted in Chenier Plain Marshes in 2009; since then it has spread throughout.

This non-native plant species has an exceedingly rapid growth rate, and under the right conditions it can potentially take over a waterway causing catastrophic results. The mat blocks sunlight from penetrating into the water, ultimately killing phytoplankton and other aquatic plant species, as well as exhausting oxygen levels, which alters the area as a waterfowl habitat and degrades the water quality for fish. Giant Salvinia is unintentionally spread to new water bodies on boats and fishing gear. One way to prevent the expansion of Giant Salvinia is to properly clean boating equipment and vessels of any plant fragments. These plant fragments, garden, and aquarium plants should all be discarded properly in the trash and kept out of water bodies. It is important to properly control and dispose of the plant material in order to keep lakes, rivers, ponds and other freshwater wetlands functioning properly without the disturbance caused by Giant Salvinia.

Cyrtobagous salviniae, a species of weevil, is often referred to as the salvinia weevil due to being a biological pest control against the highly invasive Giant Salvinia. For more information on Giant Salvinia and CWPPRA’s efforts to control this invasive plant species visit the Coastwide Salvinia Weevil Propagation Facility (LA-284) Fact Sheet.