World Wetlands Day Outreach Event

Getting out and working with students is one of our favorite things to do in the public outreach office, so we are so glad we were hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center this past Friday, February 1, for World Wetlands Day. Located in downtown Houma, Louisiana, the SLWDC has a beautifully curated wetlands museum exhibit as well as warm and friendly staff. The event was mostly open to Houma area schoolchildren ranging from 3rd to 7th grade with a short period at the end during which the public could participate. Students cycled through and engaged with 7 tables that each had a different focus.

Going around the room, Restore or Retreat taught about coastal erosion with a small model of a barrier island’s sandy beach, then the USDA Agricultural Research Service had students match seeds to pictures of their parent plants. The next table was our host, the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, with a presentation about invasive species. They brought their resident nutria, Beignet, as an example. Next, the LSU Veterinary Teaching Wildlife Hospital brought two hawks and a screech owl, all of whom are residents at their school due to injuries. T Baker Smith demonstrated some restoration techniques like shoreline protection, vegetative planting, and marsh creation. After those techniques, Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) presented how it is important to treat wastewater and how wetlands act as filters, and BTNEP shared a few examples of animals with shells. We brought a game that uses bean bag animals to teach about how some species are confined to a specific habitat, but some animals can use more than one habitat.

The celebration started in response to the Feb 2, 1971 signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, which is an international treaty to recognize wetlands as vitally important ecosystems. [1] On this day, organizations worldwide share a mutual goal to raise awareness and spread appreciation for wetlands near them. We appreciate the opportunity to get out and interact with students and we are proud to have worked with so many other enthusiastic and educational groups. Many thanks to our hosts, visitors, and colleagues- we appreciate all of the work you do to #ProtectOurCoast.

 

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LSU Veterinary School Students taught about wildlife rehabilitation with amputee birds of prey.
Beignet
Beignet, the resident nutria, cannot cause massive marsh damage from his little cage, but he can tear up some carrots.

 

[1] https://www.ramsar.org/about-the-ramsar-convention

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National Estuary Week

In honor of National Estuaries Week, we have information on how to care about the health of estuaries near you!

Twenty-two of the thirty-two largest cities in the world are located near estuaries, and with good reason. The ecosystem benefits of estuaries are massive, including major shipping channels, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism.[1] The high productivity in these areas means that they are hugely beneficial to societies near them. In coastal Louisiana, many jobs and industries are directly dependent on a healthy estuarine system.

We in Louisiana are lucky to host one of the 28 National Estuary Programs supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each National Estuary Program focuses on a different estuary, each one distinct and complicated, but they all share concerns about water quality and ecological integrity. Together the programs have restored or protected over 2 million acres across the nation since 2000. Our local NEP, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP), seeks to maintain the breeding habitat of shrimp, blue crabs, and many fish species that have come to be a huge industry in the state. Other estuaries host different fisheries and different industries, for example the Puget Sound Partnership Comprehensive Plan includes support for salmon fisheries, resident orca populations, and goals for reducing shore armoring. BTNEP is based out of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, and they have a bounty of information on their website about their work, worries, and successes in maintaining one of the most productive ecosystems on the gulf coast. Anyone interested in protecting and restoring the estuary is welcome to participate in the BTNEP Management Conference which meets three times a year. People can also take part in beach clean ups, water quality monitoring, and local events to highlight recreational opportunities in the Barataria-Terrebonne area.

Many other programs and organizations are dedicated to the preservation of our estuaries, including RESTORE the Mississippi River Delta, America’s Wetland Foundation and CWPPRA’s Partners in Restoration. All of these programs understand the issues that threaten coastal Louisiana and the people who call it home.

[1]https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/estuaries03_ecosystem.html

Featured image from http://mississippiriverdelta.org/diversions-old-vegetation-and-new-vegetation/

 

National Honey Bee Day – August 18th

August 18th was National Honey Bee day in the USA, but what’s all the buzz about? Pollinators play vital roles in plant communities, including carrying pollen from plant to plant. How does that work? How do honey bees know which flowers need their help? How do they communicate with other bees? All of that and more to come on this special #WetlandWednesday!

There are many kinds of pollinators, from birds to bugs to bats! A mutualistic relationship between pollinators and flowering plants allows the pollinators to collect food and allows the plant to spread its pollen to other individuals. Different animals have different strategies of carrying pollen. Honey bees use some very complex methods of finding, harvesting, and spreading pollen within plant communities. There are almost 20,000 described species of bees; some live in colonies and some do not, some pollinate only one plant species and some pollinate multiple species. The most cultivated of the honey bees (genus: Apis), the Eastern Honey Bee (A. mellifera), is a colonial bee species that does not specialize on one plant. In flight, bees build up an electrostatic charge on their fine, branched hairs. When bees climb into flowers looking for sugary nectar, their charged hairs attract pollen even from a couple of millimeters away! The charge and the branches in their hairs help to keep the pollen attached when the bee leaves in search of its next bounty of sugar.

How do honey bees find flowers? Using a combination of visual, chemical, and communicated clues, bees are highly specialized to find the flowers that are just right for them. Compound eyes do not have the high definition visuals that human eyes have, but they can see ultraviolet light. Some flowers have ultraviolet patterns on their petals called “nectar guides”. [1] When in flight, bees will not always see color, but they can still see shapes and can recognize nectar guide shapes, as well as smell aromas from the flowers. Bees can also communicate instructions or coordinates for finding flowers through “waggle dancing”! [2]

Honey bees pollinate throughout wetlands across the world and have major positive impacts on ecosystem health. Native trees and shrubs of Louisiana that are dependent on pollinators like the European honey bee include Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera), Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora, our Louisiana state flower), and Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor). Some smaller flowers that need bee pollinators include Wooly Rosemallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus), Coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba), and Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans). [3] Honey bees are also vital in pollinating about 90% of agricultural crops nationwide! Without pollinators, our Louisiana wetlands would not be as productive and vibrant as they are, and we need the help of pollinators to #ProtectOurCoast!

 

[1] https://www.bumblebee.org/bodyEyehtm.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waggle_dance

[3] http://pollinator.org/guides

Featured image from https://www.louisianabeesanctuary.org/

Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials

Neither time nor sediment should go to waste! CWPPRA and our partners believe that beneficial use of dredged material in projects is an important part of coastal wetlands restoration.

Beneficial use, in simple terms, is the act of using dredged materials to fortify our barrier islands, build marsh platforms, or nourish the coastline instead of disposing it into places that will not benefit from it. Dredging is necessary to keep important transportation channels open for commercial ships and recreational boating. When dredging a canal, sediment is often dumped in holding facilities or off the continental shelf because of the low price tag. Borrowing sediment from otherwise untouched and stable areas is not necessary when dredging already makes viable material readily available.  [1]

Many CWPPRA projects that are approved for construction have implemented beneficial use of sediment. For example:

  • BA-39 Mississippi River Sediment Delivery – Bayou Dupont
  • MR-08 Beneficial Use of Hopper Dredged Material Demonstration
  • AT-02 Atchafalaya Sediment Delivery
  • TE-44 North Lake Mechant Landbridge Restoration
  • CS-28 Sabine Refuge Marsh Creation (Cycle II and onwards)
  • And many more!

Of course, some areas will not be in close enough proximity to a channel with reliable dredging, but we want to maximize beneficial use when and where possible. For CS-28-2, our partners installed a permanent dredged material pipeline to further decrease damage to coastal wetlands that temporary pipelines can cause. The permanent pipeline ensures that whenever the Calcasieu River Ship Channel needs dredging, the dredged material goes to restoring wetlands with as little detrimental influence as possible.

Sediment is a valuable resource for coastal Louisiana, and the need for sediment across the coast means that we can’t afford to waste any. CWPPRA projects strive to use sediment from as many sources as possible so that more projects have the material they need- with some creativity, a little sediment can go a long way.

 

Featured image from https://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/news/article_5f227419-6c44-5a0d-a641-1af377e5bb91.html

[1] https://www.epa.gov/cwa-404/beneficial-use-dredged-material

Coastwide Vegetative Planting (LA-39)

 

The coastal restoration community has long recognized the benefits of vegetative plantings in restoration. Many marsh creation and most terracing projects require plantings to insure success. Coastal shoreline plantings have also proven to be very effective and some have demonstrated the ability to not only stop shoreline erosion but to facilitate accretion, the process of increasing sediments. Recent hurricane events have exposed a need to have a mechanism in place where large-scale planting efforts can be deployed in a timely manner to specifically targeted areas of need, anywhere along the coast. Although the CWPPRA program can fund specific largescale planting projects, the normal program cycle for individual projects can delay needed restoration plantings for a number of years.

The goals of this project are to facilitate a consistent and responsive planting effort in coastal Louisiana that is flexible enough to routinely plant on a large scale and be able to rapidly respond to critical areas of need following storm or other damaging events. This project set up an advisory panel consisting of representatives from various state and federal agencies who would assist in the selection of projects for funding. The project also set up a mechanism by which project nominations would be submitted for consideration. The equivalent of 90 acres of interior marsh and 40,000 linear feet of coastal shoreline will be planted per year over a 10 year period to effectively create/protect a total of 779 net acres of marsh over the 20-year project life.

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The project features are located in the coastal zone of Louisiana.

This project is on Priority Project List 20. Three sites have been planted with Year One funding, and three sites are scheduled to be planted in 2014 with Year Two funding.

 

Federal Sponsor: NRCS

Local Sponsor: CPRA

Prothonotary Warblers

 

As April passes into May, many migratory birds leave the tropics of Central and South America in search of bountiful summer resources in the sub-tropical United States. Among them, the very charismatic Prothonotary Warbler flies from the northern tropics to the hospitable habitats of the United States. Prothonotary warblers live in forests near bodies of slow-moving water where they can hunt for insects and nest in cavities in trees. The cypress swamps of Louisiana are about as good as it gets for a prothonotary warbler, and they stay from April to August. [1] If you get out into the swamp during the summer, look for their bright yellow figures darting through low-lying foliage.

Prothonotary warblers have experienced a population decline in recent years that experts attributed to the destruction of their wintering habitat in the tropics.[2] To improve breeding success and survivorship, the Audubon Society and other ornithological enthusiasts have encouraged people to install nest boxes that help to protect warbler nests from failing. Many natural threats exist in swamps for warblers, including a variety of snakes, birds of prey, and mammals. Since brown-headed cowbirds will use prothonotary nests to lay their eggs in when given the chance, nest boxes are suggested to have a 1¼“ hole to prevent larger birds from entering the box but still allow the warblers to enter. Boxes are not left on the ground, and are often mounted on poles. Some predators can climb, so many boxes have a skirt/collar that prevents snakes, raccoons, and cats from climbing the poles into the nests. More guidelines for a good nest box can be found at https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/features-of-a-good-birdhouse/.

 

 

[1] Petit, L. J. (1999). Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.408

[2] Kaufman, Kenn. “Prothonotary Warbler.” Audubon, National Audubon Society, 10 Mar. 2016, http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/prothonotary-warbler.

Featured Image:

Brannon, Peter. “Adult Male.” All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Florida, 14 Sept. 2016, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Prothonotary_Warbler/id.

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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