World Oceans Day

In 2008, the United Nations designated June 8 World Oceans Day. World Oceans Day, an independent organization established in 2002 advocates for ocean preservation. Even earlier in 1992, there was discussion about a need to raise awareness across the world about the importance of a healthy ocean. Hundreds of visitors streamed through the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on Saturday, June 8, 2019 to celebrate the oceans of the world.

We were excited to celebrate the health of our oceans at the Aquarium of the Americas because so many of Louisiana’s citizens rely on it for their livelihoods. Alongside partners such as BTNEP, our Outreach Team visited with hundreds of enthusiastic aquarium-goers from across the country. Our table was at the mouth of the Mississippi River section on the second floor, next to one of the Audubon Institute’s famed “leucistic” (partial loss of pigment, appearing white) alligators, Tchompitoulas.

Each family at the event was given an activity sheet as they entered, directing them to each of the different tables to collect stamps. To earn their butterfly stamp from CWPPRA, they had to learn the average number of minutes it takes to lose one acre, or a football field, of land in coastal Louisiana. On top of that, many of the younger participants were really excited to learn about the animals in our habitat toss game. Despite not being allowed to take the bean bags home, they still had fun learning about different coastal habitats and the resources they provide.

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Writing on the Bayou

On Saturday, June 1, our CWPPRA Outreach Coordinator, Jennifer Ritter Guidry, attended the Bayou Culture Collaborative’s Writing on the Bayou workshop at the Terrebonne Parish Library in Gray, LA. Led by Nicholls State University English professor Dr. Michael Martin, the small group of writers shared their background in writing fiction, non-fiction and memoir, poetry and songs. After a discussion of types of writing styles and a brief examination of writing samples, we talked about Louisiana’s landscape and its sensorial aspects, and how to incorporate that in your writing. And then, we wrote about an experience within the Louisiana landscape and read our pieces to the group. Each story captured the essence of the landscape, from one person’s writing nook overlooking the bayou to another’s memory of pulling potatoes and driving the tractor with her father. Here’s Jennifer’s piece.

 

Louisiana’s landscape is its primary determining factor in all of its development—it drove early peoples to high ground to settle and offered multiple avenues for travel, dictated the types and variety of available food, discouraged European colonists who instead chose to impose control over the environment (New Orleans, anyone?). Landscape allowed for early roads to follow the numerous waterways and determined a mixed system for industry and transport.

The roads today in Lafayette seem to make no sense. The original grid of Vermilionville centered around the church has expanded into a tangled web of roads, intersections, alleys, and absurd traffic. The old joke is that the roads were mapped by a fellow who followed a car as it wandered through the area. In truth, first came the railroad, which avoided traversing the water at all coasts and instead paralleled it. Then came the roads, which had no other alternative than to mirror those riverine twists and turns.

It doesn’t matter where you are in Lafayette, you can always hear the late-night trains blasting through town, whistles at top volume. I grew up near the Vermilion River and as a determinedly introspective teen, my favorite thing to do was to sneak out of my bedroom window in the middle of the night and walk down to the river and watch the mist rising off the water.

 

Dustpan Maintenance Dredging Operations for Marsh Creation in the Mississippi River Delta Demonstration (MR-10)

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Hopper dredges must dispose of their material in deep
water, making the spoil material unavailable for direct
marsh creation, although the material may still provide
nourishment for the system. In comparison to hopper
dredges, spoil from dustpan and cutterhead dredges can be
disposed of in shallow, open waters for marsh creation.

The project demonstrated the safe operation of a dustpan
hydraulic dredge in the critical Head of Passes reach of the
Mississippi River. This demonstration enables the use of
this type of dredge for the maintenance of this reach and
additional opportunity for the beneficial use of the dredge
material. Over the course of this demonstration project,
approximately 40 acres of deteriorated marsh that had
converted to shallow open water was restored with
approximately 222,000 cubic yards of dredge material
over the course of 8 days or 192 operating hours with the
expectation of an increase in marsh.

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The project is located in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, in
the Mississippi River Modern Delta. Dredging took place
near Cubit’s Gap, Head of Passes, and Southwest Pass.

The demonstration was completed in June 2002.
This project is on Priority Project List 6.

Wetlands Filtration

The United Nations celebrates World Environment Day today, June 5, to bring more awareness to issues of environmental protection and restoration. This year’s theme is combating air pollution. We rely on our wetlands for oxygen production, carbon sequestration, and physical protection from natural disasters. As humans aggravate and change our environments, we lose these life supporting benefits and the impacts of global climate change become a local occurrence. [1] CWPPRA works to restore Louisiana wetlands so they can continue to filter pollution and improve air and water quality.

Coastal Louisiana contains about 40 percent of the United States’ wetlands, but we are experiencing around 80 percent of the nation’s land loss. [2] Recent studies have found that wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world, including estuaries, swamps, and marshes, all of which are found throughout coastal Louisiana. [3] Productivity is important because the more plant and animal material an ecosystem accumulates, the more carbon is absorbed, or sequestered, from the atmosphere. Plants grow through photosynthesis, which is a process that uses sunlight to bind carbon dioxide from the air into sugars that the plants can use for food. Wetlands have an impressive ability to store carbon in diverse plant tissues, both living and dead.

Although all plants and animals need nutrients, agricultural runoff introduces huge amounts of excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to our wetlands as well, which impact wetland ecosystems. Nutrient pollution can cause weakened plant roots that are less effective at retaining sediment. [5,6] Additionally, nutrient pollution leads to algal blooms that deplete oxygen in the water, a process known as hypoxia, which leads to dead zones that kill aquatic species and causes health concerns for humans. Wetlands do a great job at filtering water to improve water quality, but they have their limits. Restoring wetlands will have greater potential to reduce nutrient pollution in the Gulf that damages the seafood industry, poses threats to human health, and degrades Louisiana’s coastal zone. Healthy plant communities in wetlands will sequester excess nutrients as well as other pollutants, improving water quality and decreasing potential risks downstream. [7] Wetlands can even be used as wastewater treatment plants. [8]

Atmospheric and aquatic nutrients can be filtered and stored by wetland plants, with long-lasting benefits to the world’s oceans and climate. CWPPRA realizes how many benefits we receive from wetlands and we have been working since 1990 to protect and restore our critical coastal environments. Alongside our partners, we hope that our wetland projects help our marshes and swamps continue to provide social, cultural, economic, and environmental benefits.

 

  1. https://phys.org/news/2017-02-wetlands-vital-role-carbon-storage.html
  2. https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/la-wetlands/
  3. https://globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/kling/energyflow/energyflow.html
  4. https://www.aswm.org/wetland-science/wetlands-and-climate-change/carbon-sequestration
  5. https://climateactiontool.org/content/restore-affected-estuaries-reduce-nutrient-pollution
  6. https://nicholas.duke.edu/about/news/dead-roots-not-just-waves-account-marsh-losses-gulf
  7. http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/nutrient-removal
  8. http://efc.web.unc.edu/2016/09/23/constructed-wetlands-wastewater-treatment-walnut-cove-nc/

Sugar Cane

The natural flooding of the Mississippi River has produced fertile wetland soils which farmers in Louisiana use to grow sugar cane. Sugar cane was introduced in the plantation region around New Orleans in the 1750s and succeeded due to the slave labor required to cultivate the crop. [1] Commercial farming hit its stride with the introduction of new technology for granulating sugar in 1795  at Étienne de Boré’s plantation. Ever since , Louisiana’s sugar cane industry has flourished and remained, to this day, one of Louisiana’s main agricultural products.

At least 25,000 Louisiana residents across 23 parishes grow, harvest, or process sugar cane from around 400,000 acres of farmland that are set in our fertile wetlands. Multiple effect evaporators, invented in 1834 by a Creole chemical engineer named Norbert Rillieux, a free man of color, are still used today. [2] New innovations in crop protection, hardiness of varieties, and processing techniques continue to rake in $645 million from exports alone, constituting 16 percent of total national sugar production. [3] Interspersed between sugar cane fields, one can find dual rice-crawfish fields as well as soybeans, cotton, and corn. Sweet potatoes and juicy Louisiana strawberries are among the state’s staple crops as well.

Even with new technologies and innovations, fertile soils are still one of the largest contributing factors to the success of agriculture in our wetland state. Land loss threatens to ruin the livelihood of Louisiana farmers. Salt water intrusion continues to penetrate our interior agricultural land as our coastal marshes vanish. More about salt water intrusion can be found in our post about the topic. [LINK] Restoring natural hydrology and preventing saltwater intrusion from harming our fertile wetland soils is imperative for Louisiana farmers. Protecting our coast has long-reaching benefits to our vital agricultural industry, our citizens, and our state, and CWPPRA is working alongside other groups to restore our natural coastline for a sustainable future.

[1] http://www.assct.org/louisiana/progress.pdf

[2] https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/lbenedict/articles/page1503347392487

[3] https://www.lsuagcenter.com/portals/communications/publications/agmag/archive/2008/spring/sugar-processing-in-louisiana

Featured Image from https://www.trover.com/d/1zHAz-new-iberia-louisiana

Pecan Island Terracing (ME-14)

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In the mid-1950s continuous dikes were constructed and water was pumped off the marsh, transforming it into dry pastureland. As a result of oxidation, the soil elevation has subsided 1 to 2 feet. Deterioration and loss of the perimeter levees in recent years has converted the entire area into a shallow, open water lake with a few small marsh islands resulting in a net loss of fisheries habitat.

The restoration project will reduce marsh erosion by creating emergent terraces designed to minimize wave fetch across open water and, at the same time, creating linear marsh features. Future marsh loss will be prevented and brackish marsh will be restored. Construction of the earthen terraces in shallow water areas will also convert areas of open water back to vegetated marsh creating more habitat for fish and shellfish. The project calls for constructing adjacent terrace cells in a staggered gap formation, each bordered by terraces made from dredged material. Terraces will be built and planted with smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), and California bulrush (Scirpus californicus). Plantings may also occur on the north side of the terracing area.map.jpg

 

This project is located in southeastern Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, approximately 5 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico just south of Pecan Island and Louisiana Highway 82.

The project construction was completed in August 2003, initially creating over 122 acres of emergent marsh. The monitoring plan was finalized in November 2001 and data collection has been ongoing since that time.

This project is on Priority Project List 7.

The Federal Sponsor is NOAA

The Local Sponsor is CPRA

Biological Diversity

Today, CWPPRA celebrates the International Day of Biological Diversity and the variety of species Louisiana’s coastal wetlands! Louisiana’s wetlands boast a wide array of ecosystems, including upland hardwood forests, forested wetlands known as swamps, salt and freshwater marshes, and barrier islands, that allow for species to thrive and diversify into specialized niches.  Throughout the United States, we all benefit from Louisiana’s wetland biodiversity, especially the abundance of fresh fish and seafood species.

The fact that we have so many desirable species in our coastal waters is a huge benefit to the state’s economy, and the seafood industry provides many Louisiana residents with job opportunities. Louisiana fisheries contribute about $2.4 billion to our economy each year. About $1.3 billion of that sum is directly from the shrimp catch. Recreational fishing is a popular pastime in this area as well, which is supported by wetland habitats. Our rich diversity allows for people to choose from a variety of prey. Many fishermen diversify their catches so that if one species limit is reached or season is passed, they can collect other species. Limits are put in place to keep populations stable, which maintains ecological interactions and the vibrant ecosystems we are so proud of. For more information about limits and fishing licenses, visit the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

From the flavor of the meat, to the number of bones, each species has different value to fishermen and consumers. Differences in physiology and morphology between fish in our coastal waters are as abundant due to our biodiversity. We have bony fish and cartilaginous fish, plant- and meat-eaters, fresh and saltwater species, fish with or without spines, and the list goes on and on. These different types of fish coexist because our coast is so productive. Normally, ecosystems evolve predictably as populations move and change size and they are resilient to an extent. However, large-scale disturbances that interrupt the natural interactions and processes—like the sudden proliferation of an invasive species, man-made disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and large weather events—can cause major problems for our native species.

Diversity is an important factor in a healthy ecosystem and Louisiana is fortunate to have our abundant and protective coastal zone, but we are losing these important habitats to land loss. Land loss affects the diversity of our species and the industries that rely on these species. CWPPRA is dedicated to make sure our projects have a positive impact on our native species of plants and animals before construction begins. CWPPRA strives to protect the natural splendor that makes Louisiana the “Sportsman’s Paradise” for generations to come.

 

Featured Image from https://beckyeldredge.com/shrimp-boats