Louisiana’s State Reptile – The American Alligator

The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), the largest reptile in North America, is also known as the state reptile of Louisiana. Ancestors of the American alligator appeared nearly 160 million years ago. Alligators are cold-blooded, and their body temperature is regulated by the environment around them. There are approximately 2 million wild alligators in the state of Louisiana. Alligators can be spotted in ponds, lakes, bayous, rivers, swamps, and even occasionally swimming pools near these coastal areas in the dry months. The highest populations of alligators within Louisiana are found in coastal marshes. Coastal marshes account for about 3 million acres of alligator habitat in Louisiana.

Alligators are predators in the wetland ecosystem. Young alligators typically feed on small animals such as crawfish, insects, small fish, and frogs. An adult alligator’s diet consists of crabs, turtles, nutria, large birds, and sometimes deer. Alligators assist in population control and support diversity in the environment.  During nest construction, alligators dig burrows with their tails in peat, a boggy type of soil, which often facilitates plant growth. The burrows become “alligator holes”, or wetland depressions, which serve as a breeding area to many species other than alligators during dry periods. Alligators are key contributors to the diversity and productivity of coastal wetlands.

American-Alligator-Photos

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Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Cycle III

CS-28-3-01

The project area is experiencing marsh degradation due to
saltwater intrusion and freshwater loss. This has resulted
in the conversion of vegetated intermediate marsh to
large shallow open water areas. Salinity migrates into the
region from the Calcasieu River. Southerly winds push
saline waters into the project area through existing canals
and bayous. Wind driven waves cause further loss of the
remaining marsh fringe.

Cycle III consists of the creation of 232 acres of marsh
platform using material dredged from the Calcasieu River
Ship Channel. Between February 12 and March 31, 2007,
828,767 cubic yards of dredged sediment material was
placed into the Sabine Refuge Cycle III marsh creation area.
The dredged material is contained by earthen dikes. Lower
level earthen overflow weirs were constructed to assist in the
dewatering of the marsh creation disposal area and to create
fringe marsh with the overflow. The dredged slurry has been
placed between elevations 2.03 NAVD 88 to 2.71 NAVD 88.

map

This project is located in the Sabine National Wildlife
Refuge, west of LA Highway 27, in large, open water areas
west of Brown’s Lake in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

The Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Project was originally
approved as part of the Project Priority List 8 in 1999. The
project was later broken into 5 cycles. In 2004, additional
funds for engineering and design and construction were
approved for Cycle III. The placement of the dredged
material has been completed. Degradation of the retention
dikes is ongoing and expected to be completed soon.

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

The Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Cycle III’s sponsors include:

Wetlands and Waterfowl

At this time of year in Louisiana, you are sure to see early morning waterfowl hunters dressed in their best camouflage. Louisiana sits on the Mississippi Flyway, North America’s most heavily-used migration corridor for waterfowl. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands provide habitat for more than five million migratory waterfowl, approximately half of the wintering duck population of the Mississippi Flyway. The coastal marshes of Louisiana provide habitat to mottled ducks, wood ducks, redheads, and pintails, just to name a few species. These waterfowl species can be spotted in coastal marshes, flooded timbers, flooded grain fields, and other wetland areas. Grab your waders, shot gun, and a duck call, and take advantage of Louisiana’s Sportsman’s Paradise.

pintail duck wood duck mottled duck

It is critical to protect the coastal marshes and wetlands within the state for Louisiana to remain the front runner for waterfowl hunting. CWPPRA projects are aimed at protecting and restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, ensuring that wildlife and the people who hunt them have the habitat they need.

Learning about Wetlands and Dining on Invasive Species

On November 18th, residents and visitors in St. Bernard Parish were treated to live music, cooking demonstrations, and the chance to sample wild boar recipes prepared by teams vying for bragging rights. Hosted by the Coastal Division of St. Bernard Parish, the first Cook-Off for the Coast was held at Docville Farm in Violet, Louisiana with proceeds benefiting the St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation. In addition to evaluating the food of the six competing teams, visitors watched local celebrity chefs prepare everything from gumbo to snapping turtle and talked with a range of coastal organizations about the importance of protecting southeast Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

Sinead Borchert and Mirka Zapletal from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Outreach Office were in attendance with information about restoration projects in St. Bernard Parish, activity books, posters from the #ProtectOurCoast series, and recent issues of WaterMarks magazine. They also invited children and adults alike to match Louisiana wildlife with the correct wetland habitat. St. Bernard’s coast is vulnerable to storms, subsidence, erosion, and invasive species, putting wildlife habitat and coastal communities at risk. CWPPRA projects work to support Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and the people and wildlife that depend on these habitats.

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America Recycles Day

     Today we celebrate America Recycles Day: a national initiative of Keep America Beautiful. Recycling offers numerous benefits to both our environment and human health. Recycling is one of the best actions you can take to protect natural resources. Plastics being discarded in animal habitats continue to pose a serious threat to the health of wildlife that occupies the area. Many animals die each year from ingestion of these hazardous materials, and researchers in Ireland found that plastic bags littering wetlands could smother wildlife and algae underneath [Green et al., Environ. Sci. Tech., 2015, 49 (9), pp. 5380-5389]. Along with providing a healthier habitat for animals to live, recycling beautifies the area humans utilize for recreational purposes. You can help save our wetlands and other natural habitats by picking up litter and disposing of the unwanted materials in the appropriate recycling bins or at recycling centers.

     Visit the America Recycles Day website to find valuable information on what materials can be recycled, where they can be recycled, and how they can be recycled. The recycling locator is a useful tool the website provides for finding locations to recycle in your community. While you’re visiting the America Recycle Day website, you can also take the #BeRecycled Pledge to learn, act and share with others the power of recycling.

America Recycles Day

Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Cycle II

CS-28-2-01

The project area is experiencing marsh degradation due to
saltwater intrusion and freshwater loss. This has resulted
in the conversion of vegetated intermediate marsh to large
shallow open water areas. Salinity migrates into the region
from the Calcasieu River. Southeast winds push saline
waters into the project area through canals and bayous.
Wind driven waves cause further loss of the remaining marsh
fringe.

A permanent dredged material disposal pipeline, measuring
3.57 miles in length, will be constructed in Cycle II. The
pipeline will commence near Mile 13.2 of the Calcasieu
River Ship Channel and terminate at the northeastern corner
of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. Much of the right
of way required for the pipeline was previously impacted
by the construction of a temporary pipeline used during the
construction of Cycle I. The pipeline is to be used for future
marsh creation projects in conjunction with the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers maintenance dredging of the Calcasieu
River Ship Channel.

map

The project is located on the
Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, west of Highway 27, in
large open water areas northeast of Brown’s Lake.

The Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Project was originally
approved as part of the Project Priority List 8 in 1999. The
project was later broken into 5 cycles. In 2004, additional
funds for engineering and design and construction were
approved for Cycle II. The pipeline is constructed and will
be available for use during the 2011 maintenance dredging of
the Calcasieu River Ship Channel.

This project is on Priority Project List 8.

The Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation Cycle II’s sponsors include:

Invasive Species

Wetlands provide storm surge protection, water filtration, and habitat for plants and animals. Our coastal communities also receive many other benefits from wetlands. Unfortunately, our wetlands have become vulnerable to invasive species. An invasive species is defined as any species not native to the ecosystem which is likely to cause environmental harm. Invasive species, both plants and animals, pose a huge threat to maintaining a healthy coastal environment. These non-native species tend to compete with the native species, ultimately displacing them. Predator-prey relationships can be detrimentally affected, altering the way wetland ecosystems function and deteriorating their value. Invasive species also contribute to coastal habitat loss which greatly affects the state of Louisiana.

Apple snails are an invasive species that destroy fish habitat by consuming vegetation and leaving the water dominated by algae. These snails are hosts for parasites which can be spread to small mammals and humans. Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) is a hostile form of vegetation that grows at a rapid rate. The thick invasive plant species can obstruct waterways and block sunlight and air from our native vegetation, killing the foundation of the food chain. Nutria, a medium-sized rodent, is known to destroy marshlands that provide protection from flooding and are habitats for birds, fish, and other animals. A nutria control program was initiated in Louisiana in 2002 by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to achieve the public’s help in suppressing this invasive threat. Monetary rewards are given for each nutria pelt that is turned in to one of the program’s collection stations.

invasive-snails-9128bceaf00ade6e nutria2_502672_7

While eliminating most invasive species is nearly impossible, a degree of control is the goal. CWPPRA works to protect the wetlands by developing strategies to lessen the threat of invasive species. You can read Watermarks #56 Halting Invasive Species’ Assault on the Wetlands to learn more about this topic.