Louisiana’s Live Oak Cheniers

With coastal needs continuing to grow, we can learn from nature’s history for ways to strengthen our coastlines. While we often think about how barrier islands protect the coast from storms, coastal cheniers and forests across Louisiana are also essential in providing that protection. These coastal forests are often found on shell ridges known as cheniers.

French for “place of oaks”, cheniers act as storm barriers, prevent saltwater intrusion, and provide wildlife habitat for migratory birds and butterflies [1,3]. Cheniers along  Louisiana’s coast extend from Cameron Parish in the west to Iberia Parish” [1]. Due to their higher relief, or height above sea level, a large majority of these areas were cleared for human development uses such as highways, agriculture, and oil and gas [2]. Louisiana originally hosted 100,000 to 500,000 acres of chenier, but today only 2,000 to 10,000 acres remain [1].

While these numbers can be discouraging, local and state efforts are in place to conserve live-oak (Quercus virginiana) cheniers and coastal forests.

Louisiana is fortunate to have programs and organizations like this to conserve the coast and its natural abundance. These practices along with landowner, volunteer and citizen engagement are essential to coastal restoration. You may visit CWPPRA’s website lacoast.gov to learn how you can help Louisiana’s coastal wetlands!

Do your part to conserve our environment and help Louisiana’s coast!

Source:
[1] Louisiana Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Date Accessed October 30, 2018. Available:http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/document/32867-coastal-live-oak-hackberry-forest/coastal_live_oak-hackberry_forest.pdf
[2] Army Corps of Engineers. Southwest Coastal Louisiana Final Integrated Draft and Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement. Date Accessed October 30, 2018. Available:http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/Portals/56/docs/PD/Projects/SWCoastal/11%20Appendix%20A%20Env%20Report.pdf
[3] Baton Rouge Audubon Society. Accessed on 10/31/2018. Available:http://www.braudubon.org/peveto-woods-sanctuary.php
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Ocean Commotion 2018

The 21st annual Ocean Commotion event was held at LSU on October 25, 2018. Sponsored by the Louisiana Sea Grant, Ocean Commotion is an opportunity to learn about coastal and oceanic issues. Held at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center, 65 exhibitors provided hands-on learning about Louisiana’s coastal environment, sustainability practices, our beloved oceans, and the organisms that live here. More than 1,800 students, teachers, and chaperones from area schools had the opportunity to look at zooplankton with the LSU Department of Oceanography, build a delta with LSU Sea Grant, and come face to face with animals from Bluebonnet Swamp.

CWPPRA Outreach staff were set up with our Mysterious Wetland Wonders. Students read clues and then reached inside boxes (no peeking!) to identify plant and animal relics. From invasive apple snail shells to magnolia seed pods to a turtle carapace, each item can be found in Louisiana wetlands. Our wetlands are home to a diverse array of plants and wildlife and provide us with recreation, economic benefits, cleaner water, and other ecosystem services. Protecting these wetlands helps protect all of the groups that depend on them for food, shelter, and fun.

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CWPPRA Outreach staff were set up with our Mysterious Wetland Wonders. Students read clues and then reached inside boxes (no peeking!) to identify plant and animal relics. From invasive apple snail shells to magnolia seed pods to a turtle carapace, each item can be found in Louisiana wetlands. Our wetlands are home to a diverse array of plants and wildlife and provide us with recreation, economic benefits, cleaner water, and other ecosystem services. Protecting these wetlands helps protect all of the groups that depend on them for food, shelter, and fun.

East Sabine Lake Hydrologic Restoration (CS-32)

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The lower salinity marshes are converting to shallow, open water due to elevated salinity events and subsidence. Navigation channels provide a direct route for salt water to infiltrate the marsh, disrupt the natural water circulation, and allow rapid runoff of fresh water. The larger Sabine-Neches Waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) have allowed saltwater intrusion into the project area’s fresh and intermediate marshes. Elevated tidal fluctuations in these channels have led to increased water flow, which has increased the conversion of marsh to open water. Area marsh loss is also caused by wave action along Sabine Lake and interior marsh shorelines and other natural causes (i.e., subsidence).

The project features include: a rock weir in Pines Ridge Bayou; three culverts with flap gates at Bridge Bayou; a 3,000 foot-long rock rip-rap breakwater along the Sabine Lake shoreline at Willow Bayou; a weir/plug at the opening at Starks South Canal Section 16 levee; and 232,000 linear feet of vegetated earthen terraces in the vicinity of Greens Lake.

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The project is located in the western portion of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge from Pool 3 to the eastern shoreline of Sabine Lake in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Construction was completed in October 2010.

This project is on Priority Project List 10.

The Federal Sponsor is U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Local Sponsor is CPRA

Coastal Permitting and Mitigation

With the United States midterm elections coming up, this week’s Wetland Wednesday focuses on the roles of government in coastal restoration, specifically permitting and mitigation. Of course, each coastal parish has their own government and representatives, and the State of Louisiana has dedicated offices for coastal restoration.

Anyone who wants to construct a restoration project in the coastal zone must go through the State of Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to obtain the proper permitting, most commonly a Coastal Use Permit. [1] The DNR requires all who apply for a coastal use permit to prove that they have sufficiently addressed the need for environmental damage mitigation. CWPPRA-funded projects are permitted through this office because they have sufficient positive environmental impact. Our engineers and managers must prove that they have done the necessary surveys and sustainable development plans. Other coastal uses that require permitting include dock construction, dredging and infilling, and oil well capping and abandonment.

All permits are distributed with the intent of preserving net ecosystem integrity, meaning that if there is a large impact at the project location, damage mitigation measures are required. Recent legislation at the state level has been moving toward the idea of “Environmental Banking”, [2] which would allow developers to invest in the coastal zone, providing funds for restoration and earning credits that can be cashed in for mitigation needs. This process would get dollars on the ground in advance to help fund restoration. Since local damage is so common in development, environmental bank investors must invest in the bank that deals with the zone they will want to develop.

CWPPRA was enacted in 1990 to minimize coastal land loss. One of the most important goals of our projects is to provide a net benefit to the local environment. Legislation and permitting allow us to do this vital work, and we appreciate the efforts in Louisiana toward responsible coastal use. We hope everyone, both in government and the larger public, continues to view coastal land loss as a serious threat to the economy, ecosystems, and civilization.

[1] http://www.dnr.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&pid=85&ngid=5

[2] http://www.jmbcompanies.com/Services/Mitigation/mitigation-banking-environmental

Wild Things

On Saturday, October 13th, the CWPPRA outreach team rolled up to the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters in Lacombe, LA for Wild Things. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts on Wild Things every year during National Wildlife Refuge Week to celebrate wildlife and getting out into nature. This year we brought our Wetland Wonders game, along with all our regular publications. We underestimated how popular our materials would be and quickly ran out of everything. We were set up on a beautiful day in the shade. Nearby, families could learn about wilderness survival, injured bird rehabilitation, native animal and plant species, and much more.

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The Wetland Wonders game was well-received by children and adults alike. We had a short lull around lunchtime but otherwise the boxes constantly had visitors. Our Wetland Wonders activity asks players to guess the object inside the box without looking at it. Players can feel inside and read clues that are on the front of the boxes. Many people start out timid from the mystery but play the game once they believe there is nothing alive or gross in the boxes. We enjoy events like this and we urge you to seek similar events for your family and friends. To find more events by the Fish and Wildlife Service, you can visit their website and search for your nearest Wildlife Refuge. Get out and #ProtectOurCoast!

Soil Cores

What can we learn from soil cores?

Soils and sediment can tell us a lot about the health of a wetland, including nutrient concentrations, average productivity, and flooding patterns. There’s a rich history in every soil sample that scientists can piece together if they know what to look for.

Soil cores are a method of collecting soils that allow the observer to get a vertical profile within a layer of sediment or soil. [1] Depending on the desired characteristic, cores can be a foot of material from the surface or they can be over 6 feet tall starting 20 feet below the surface. Each study using a core sample can tell a diverse story. For example, cores in coastal wetlands can be used at CRMS sites to measure accretion on top of marker horizons in an RSET-MH apparatus , in swamps to gauge the oxidation potential of soils, or in marsh to quantify the living root mass that provides structural integrity to platforms. Sediment types, decomposition, and bulk density can also be measured.

Knowing the quality of soils that you’re working with is important in planning for success in the restoration field. Poor soil quality will have lower success in repopulating native flora, as we discussed in our Wetland Wednesday post here. Soil cores lead us to a better understanding of processes that we may not be able to see and to predict the future of ecosystems. Soil testing is a crucial part of conservation and will be a vital tool in the fight to protect our coast.

 

Featured image from http://uwmyvatn.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-grass-is-always-greenerin-midge.html

[1] https://kb.osu.edu/bitstream/handle/1811/513/1/(98)%202.11%20Soils.pdf

Bayou Dupont Ridge Creation and Marsh Restoration (BA-48)

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Problems: There is widespread historic and continued rapid land loss within the project site and surrounding areas resulting from subsidence, wind erosion, storms, and altered hydrology. Land loss data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that loss was occurring at a rate of 1.7% per year prior to construction. The natural limits of Bayou Dupont were difficult to determine in some areas because land loss was causing a merge of the bayou to adjacent water bodies. Natural tidal flow and drainage of patterns that once existed through the bayou were circumvented by the increasing area of open water.

Restoration Strategy: Project goals included: 1) creating and nourishing approximately 390 acres of marsh through sediment pipeline delivery from the Mississippi River; and   2) creating over two miles of ridge (10.5 acres of ridge habitat) along a portion of the southwestern shoreline of Bayou Dupont. Sediment from the river was hydraulically pumped to the project site to construct both the marsh and ridge features and additional material was dredged from Bayou Dupont to cover the ridge. The ridge is designed to mimic the configuration of other natural ridges within the watershed, and includes a constructed elevation conducive for the growth of native vegetation such as live oak, hackberry, and yaupon. The ridge is helping to redefine the limits of Bayou Dupont and reestablish the natural bank that once flanked the bayou and  protected adjacent marshes.

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Location: This project is located within the Barataria Basin in Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes. The marsh creation area is located along Bayou Dupont southeast of the waterbody known as the Pen.

Progress to Date: Construction began in the Fall of 2014 in conjunction with the Mississippi River Long Distance Sediment Pipeline Project (BA-43EB) and Bayou Dupont Sediment Delivery-Marsh Creation #3 (BA-164). Construction of the Bayou Dupont (BA-48) portion was completed in fall of 2015.

This project is on Priority Project List 17.