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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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.

 

National Estuaries Week

On August 3, 2017, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution designating the week of September 16th through September 23rd as National Estuaries Week.

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Over 100 million people nationwide live near estuaries and use these resources in their daily lives through agriculture, tourism, commercial fishing, power generation, and as shipping ports. Estuaries, where the river mouths meet the ocean, are where fresh and saltwater mix.  One of the most expansive and productive estuaries in the world is located in the United States at the interface of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Along with providing jobs, estuaries have one of the highest productivity rates among ecosystems in the world. Estuaries serve as habitat for fish, waterfowl, and a variety of other wildlife by providing food and shelter during migration and mating season.

Estuaries are a well-known hotspot for recreational fishing. Take part in celebrating National Estuaries Week by reeling in a big catch while helping to keep your estuary areas clean of trash and healthy for the wildlife and vegetation. Visit our friends over at the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program for a list of activities and ways you can participate in National Estuaries Week.

Shell Beach South Marsh Creation

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The marsh boundary separating Lake Borgne and the MRGO
has undergone both interior and shoreline wetland losses due
to subsidence, impacts related to construction and use of the
MRGO (i.e., deep draft vessel traffic), and wind-driven
waves. Although much of the project area is protected from
edge erosion by shoreline protection measures, and since
2009, the MRGO has been deauthorized for deep draft
navigation and maintenance, interior wetland loss due to
subsidence continues to cause marsh fragmentation and pond
enlargement. Wetland loss rates in the project area are
estimated to be -0.60 percent a year based on USGS
analysis.

The proposed project will create and nourish 634 acres of
marsh using dredged sediment from Lake Borgne. Existing
high shorelines along Lake Borgne, remnants of previous
containment dikes and marsh edge, would be used for
containment to the extent practical. Constructed containment
dikes would be breached/gapped as needed to provide tidal
exchange after fill materials settle and consolidate. The
project would create 346 acres of marsh and nourish at least
288 acres of existing fragmented marsh. A target fill
elevation of +1.2 feet is envisioned to enhance longevity of
this land form. Additionally, 187 acres of vegetative planting
will occur within the newly created areas. Due to the
presence of existing banklines, dredged slurry overflow
could potentially be discharged immediately adjacent to the
project polygons, resulting in nourishment of additional areas.

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This project is located in Region 1, Pontchartrain Basin, South Lake Borgne Mapping
Unit, St. Bernard Parish, north bank of the Mississippi River
Gulf Outlet (MRGO) in the vicinity of Shell Beach.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 24.

The Shell Beach South Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

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

World Oceans Day

Oceans are often seen as the blood of our planet. Oceans flow over nearly three-quarters of the planet, providing 97% of the Earth’s water. Not only are oceans a home to an array of marine wildlife, they create a livable environment for land-bearing organisms like humans. Even though most people do not venture far beyond the coast, the open ocean produces a massive scope of goods and services that are a fundamental part of our health, economies, and even our weather.

Marine fisheries, shipping routes, oxygen, carbon dioxide sinks, temperature, weather control, and the water cycle are all provided by the ocean and are essential to a functioning world. Ocean-based businesses contribute more than $500 billion to the world’s economy and approximately half of the world’s population resides in the coastal zone. Oceans supply food, transportation, jobs, and products that aid in keeping people warm, safe, informed, and entertained. Around 90% of all trade between countries is carried by ship. If the ocean cannot produce it, it can at least transport the goods.

Tomorrow, June 8th, people from around the world will join together in celebration to honor, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans. The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day is “Our Oceans, Our Future.” What a suiting theme! Regardless of our distance from the ocean, our lives are still highly affected by the health of Earth’s oceans. Oceans generate most of the oxygen that we breathe, provide food for us, regulate our climate, and clean the water that we drink. Without maintaining healthy oceans, our future will be affected dramatically.

Celebrate World Oceans Day by adopting the practice of appreciating our oceans through plastic pollution prevention and cleaning the ocean of marine litter. Take care of the oceans that give so much to us in return!

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