UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre

What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with jambalaya, Cajun music, and conservation? That is how the CWPPRA outreach team and many other organizations spent last Friday, April 20th, at the UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre Expo. The expo showcased many wonderful local groups including, but not limited to, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the TECHE Project, and the Bayou Vermilion District, all hosted by the ULL Office of Sustainability.

Students visiting the expo could learn about how long it takes for different types of litter to decompose naturally, how solar panels are used to generate power, and whether or not to recycle different waste products. During their visit, they could grab free jambalaya, listen to the Cajun jam session, or decorate their very own reusable grocery bag. There are so many resources that help our community celebrate conservation, and the expo was a beautiful day for getting ULL students and faculty involved, interested, and informed.

 

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Salinity Stress and Tolerance

Living in any habitat comes with hurdles that make it harder for plants and animals to thrive. We call these hurdles “stress”. Coastal wetlands demonstrate several kinds of stresses to both plants and animals. Through many years of evolution, plants and animals have adapted to living with these stresses, also called being “stress tolerant”. Adaptations can be in physical structure changes or on the smaller scale (cellular). Some stresses that come with living in coastal wetlands include salinity (the amount of salt or ions in the water), inundation (flooding at least above the ground, sometimes even higher than the whole plant), and hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen in the water). [1]

Salt water intrusion has been increased by dredging navigation channels among other impacts. Saltwater intrusion makes fresh bodies of water more saline than they usually are. The problem with this is that the plants that live in such places are adapted to live in fresh water and generally cannot deal with increases in salinity more than 1 or 2 parts per thousand (ppt). For reference, the Gulf of Mexico’s average salinity is approximately 36ppt. Some plants, though, can live in full-strength sea water. For example, the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) has several adaptations that let it keep its cells safe from high salinity. Like smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), black mangroves excrete salt onto their leaves to get it out of their systems.[2] Some fish have similar adaptations in their gills that allow them to keep their internal salt concentrations at safe levels.

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Salt Crystals accumulate on A. germinans leaves (Photo by Ulf Mehlig, found on Wikimedia Commons)

 

Works Cited:

[1] Bradford, Nick. “Stressed Wetlands.” NEEF, 10 May 2016, http://www.neefusa.org/nature/land/stressed-wetlands.

[2] Gilman, Sharon. “Plant Adaptations.” ci.coastal.edu/~sgilman/778Plants.htm.

Featured image is of A. germinans from Wikimedia commons, courtesy of Judy Gallagher

CWPPRA and the Public Working Together

CWPPRA projects are science-based and initiate wetland restoration which is crucial to not only sustain Louisiana’s fisheries but also to protect the region’s people and resources [2]. CWPPRA relies on local input to develop projects that best serve affected residents and invites citizens to participate in project planning and selection” [2].

IMG_5174CWPPRA aims and encourages public participation to all CWPPRA meetings in which community knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation may provide insight about environmental change [1]. As CWPPRA provides public education and involvement, communities “see firsthand how change is impacting their environment and have modified their behaviors to become better environmental stewards” [2].

Restoration activities include meetings and becoming knowledgeable about protection and restoration plans. Citizens who experience flooding, channel navigation, offshore fishing and boating are encouraged to participate in all CWPPRA public meetings.

A WaterMarks interview with Don Davis of LSU SeaGrant mentioned that he believes coastal land loss is a social problem in which families who have lived in the region for more than (7) generations need an active role in finding affordable and workable solutions [1]. Ultimately Davis mentioned that each community requires solutions to coastal land loss to be affordable and have the capacity to proceed quickly with brutal honesty [1].

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWork Cited:

[1] Davis, Don: Interview WaterMarks January 2014, Number 48

[2] WaterMarks: January 2014, Number 48

South Grand Chenier Marsh Creation (ME-20)

ME-20_bannerThe major problem in the Hog Bayou Unit is land loss caused by failed agricultural impoundments and pump-offs. Other problems include saltwater intrusion from the Mermentau Ship Channel and a Gulf shoreline erosion rate of 40 feet per year. Over a period of 60 years, 9,230 acres (38% of the original marsh) was lost from the Hog Bayou Watershed, with the greatest amount of land lost between 1956 and 1974.

The major contributors to land loss in the Watershed are subsidence, compaction, and the oxidization of marsh soils in the former pump-offs and leveed agricultural areas between Hog Bayou and Highway 82. Large areas of marsh south of Highway 82 were “force drained” during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Many of these same areas now consist of open water with very little wetland vegetation. One of the largest areas of current loss is in and north of the project area.

The project’s goal is to create 430 acres and nourish 23 acres of emergent brackish and intermediate marsh. The project goal will be achieved by using dredged material from the Gulf to create two marsh creation cells (176 acres and 277 acres) in the project area east and west of Second Lake.

The project is located south of Grand Chenier in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, between Louisiana Highway 82, Hog Bayou, and east of Second Lake.

ME_20This project was selected for Phase I (engineering and design) funding at the January 2002 Task Force meeting. It is included as part of Priority Project List 11. Engineering and design is complete. Construction funding will be requested in 2013.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) #11.

The South Grand Chenier Marsh Creation’s three sponsors include

Mangroves in Winter

The recent cold weather in Louisiana may have been the end of the road for some plants as temperatures dipped into the teens and stayed below freezing for full days. The hibiscus in your garden may have survived because you gave it extra insulation, but what about marsh plants? Louisiana salt marshes are home to black mangroves (Avicennia germinans), but this represents the very northernmost part of their range. Of the three mangrove species found in the continental United States [red (Rhizophora mangle), black, and white (Laguncularia racemosa)], black mangroves are the most cold-hardy, but they are still sensitive to winter weather- they generally cannot establish above 28° N and S latitude because winters are too cold (a sliver of the Birdsfoot Delta is below 29° N, so we really are at their limit).

The three mangrove species are also different in their tolerances for other environmental conditions: red mangroves establish in the intertidal zone, while black and white mangroves are found at higher elevations, and white mangroves can colonize areas with little to no soil. In Florida where all three species occur, mangrove zones can be defined from the water extending inland and up in elevation .

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Red mangroves are found in the intertidal zone, while black and white mangroves establish at higher elevations. Graphic from the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida (https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/southflorida/habitats/mangroves/zonation/)

Black mangroves are an important component of Louisiana salt marshes, providing habitat to a variety of species. The complex root systems trap and collect sediment, limiting erosion and maintaining land. Juvenile invertebrates and fish find shelter among the roots, while seabird chicks, such as brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills, are protected from high water events and predators up in the branches.

CWPPRA projects that nourish barrier islands and create new marsh habitat help maintain black mangrove populations by providing new land for the plants to colonize; in turn, the mangroves help the new land persist in the face of wind and wave energy.

CWPPRA Project Selection

          The planning process leading up to project selection includes the nomination of a project followed by development and evaluation of proposed projects based on engineering, environmental improvements, and economics.

          A general breakdown of CWPPRA Project Selection is as follows:

  • CWPPRA projects are brought to the Task Force by the public, local municipalities, state agencies, and federal partners.
  • In January and February, each year 10-20 projects from each of the four regions become Priority Project List (PPL) candidates.
  • Parish representatives then rank projects in each region, and by the end of the spring the Technical Committee selects 10 projects from the annual PPL candidate projects for further development.
  • Of these 10 candidate projects, the Technical Committee recommends 4 projects for the design phase (Phase I) at their December meeting.
  • The Task Force must approve the 4 projects for design at their next meeting in January.
  • Projects already in design can request approval to proceed to Phase II for construction, and the Technical Committee will recommend 1-4 of these to the Task Force. Ultimately, the Task Force approves 1-4 of the recommended projects for construction.
  • Following the Technical Committee’s meeting and PPL recommendations in December, the Task Force will meet to finalize the approved projects. This year’s Task Force meeting is scheduled for January 25th. 

          Stay up-to-date on the project selection for this year’s Priority Project List by visiting our website. You can read more about CWPPRA Project Selection in Understanding CWPPRA.

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East Leeville Marsh Creation and Nourishment

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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.
The wetland loss rate for is -1.53%/year based on USGS data
from 1984 to 2015. Furthermore, the limits of Southwestern
Louisiana Canal are difficult to determine in some areas
because land loss is causing the coalescence of the canal
with adjacent water bodies. Natural tidal flow and drainage
patterns which once existed are currently circumvented by
the increasing area of open water. Data suggests that from
1932 to 1990, the basin lost over 245,000 acres of marsh, and
from 1978 to 1990, Barataria Basin experienced the highest
rate of wetland loss along the entire coast.

The project goal is to create approximately 358 acres and
nourish 124 acres of saline marsh east of Leeville.
After consideration of three potential alternatives, features
and an alignment were selected to establish an arc of
wetlands along the north side of Southwestern Canal,
Lake Jesse, and the west side of South Lake. This is to
begin rebuilding the structural framework of wetlands
east of Leeville and provide protection for Leeville from
southeasterly winds and tides. A robust engineering and
design cost was included for full flexibility during Phase 1
to expand the project if cost allows or to assess alternative
configurations, if necessary. The proposed features consist of
hydraulically mining sediment from a borrow source in Little
Lake west of Leeville and pumping dredged material to
create and nourish marsh east of Leeville. The disposal areas
would be fully contained during construction and gapped
no later than three years post construction to facilitate
establishment of tidal connection and function. Additionally,
a portion of the created marsh acres would be planted with
smooth cordgrass following construction to help stabilize the
created platform by increasing the rate of colonization.

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This project is located in Region 2, Barataria Basin, Lafourche Parish (primary)
Region 3, Terrebonne Basin, Lafourche Parish.

This project was approved for Phase I Engineering and
Design in January 2016.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 25.

The East Leeville Marsh Creation and Nourishment’s sponsors include: