Families enjoying a Saturday adventure together on March 11th had the chance to explore different aspects of the ecosystems around them, including ways that wetlands help them and native wildlife. Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration staff exhibited materials and games at the Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center as part of 2017 Family Adventure Day to benefit the non-profit Healing House in Lafayette, LA. This annual event sends families to different locations throughout Lafayette for experiences that range from face painting to coming face-to- face with a snake.
Over 250 people stopped by the Center where they had the opportunity to see a demonstration of how coastal wetlands protect interior communities and wildlife habitat from storm surge. Visitors could pick up recent issues of WaterMarks and other materials on wetlands restoration projects in coastal Louisiana. Kids also received Henri Heron’s activity book and helped match Louisiana wildlife with the wetland habitat they need to survive.
Other exhibitors, including US Fish & Wildlife Service and Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries, focused on topics like bat conservation, beekeeping, endangered species in Louisiana, and fishing. Helping families understand and appreciate the diversity of natural environments in Louisiana helps ensure that those environments will be present in the future.
Louisiana’s shorelines are eroding at a drastic pace, some at rates up to 50 feet per year. The fertile but fragile soils found in the wetlands are susceptible to wave energy. As land is lost, water bodies merge together, which can increase wave fetch and shoreline erosion. Behind these shorelines lie communities, highways, and infrastructure that are at risk of washing away.
Various techniques to defend the coastline have been tested and applied under CWPPRA. Rock revetments, oyster reefs, concrete panels, and other fabricated materials have been constructed along otherwise unstable shorelines to abate wave energy and reduce erosion. These structures are designed to break waves, and they often trap waterborne sediments behind the structures that, over time, can become new land.
Through the course of the CWPPRA program, advancements have been made in shoreline structures that have helped maintain natural processes while providing critical protection. Such advancements have included using lighter-weight materials that require less maintenance and can be constructed on organic sediments. Other advancements include low-relief structures that are designed to trap sediments and natural breakwaters such as reefs that can self-maintain and support other ecological functions. Other natural shoreline protection measures include vegetative plantings, whose roots help secure soils and can promote accretion. These projects are implemented with consideration for minimizing impacts to the surrounding environment. Although some shoreline structures may look foreign in a natural landscape, they are necessary features that physically protect communities and hold wetlands in place by mitigating the harsh forces that move to destroy them.
Invasive species (harmful non-native species) are one of the most significant drivers of global change. Consequently, they can have substantial impacts on the economy, infrastructure, and humans. Society must address invasive species as a priority, which is exactly what National Invasive Species Awareness Week intends to do. The objective of National Invasive Species Awareness Week is to bring attention to the impacts, prevention, and management of invasive species – and all those who are working toward healthy, biodiverse ecosystems.
Wetlands provide benefits ranging from water filtration to storm surge protection; however, wetlands have become vulnerable to invasive species. Known as major contributors to wetland and coastal habitat loss, invasive species also threaten native species, including endangered species that rely exclusively on the wetlands for survival. The foreign animals that have been recognized as invasive to coastal wetlands include Asian carp, wild boar, island apple snails, and nutria. Invasive plant species include Chinese tallow, common reed, and purple loosestrife. Invasive animal and plant species have altered the health of wetlands by out-competing native species for food and natural resources, often without any natural predator or control to halt the resulting aggressive spread through an area. CWPPRA strives to protect wetlands by constructing methods to diminish the invasive threat and restore native species’ dominance and health within the wetlands.
For a full list of Invasive species in Louisiana, click here.
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Environmental Education Association hosted the 20th Environmental Education State Symposium on February 3-4, 2017 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Baton Rouge, La. The theme of this year’s symposium was “protecting Louisiana’s endangered species.”
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) provides environmental education news from across Louisiana, including information on environmental education programs, workshops, and grant opportunities. The state symposium furnished opportunities for formal and non-formal environmental educators from Louisiana and surrounding states to meet and share teaching techniques as well as multiple concurrent sessions for various topics and grade levels. Keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center, used individual cases of endangered species to engage the audience in explorations of the process of science while cultivating environmental stewardship. In addition to the keynote speech, presenters in 15 concurrent sessions provided lesson demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and/or exemplary programs. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach Staff was among exhibitors with a multitude of materials to assist teachers of all grade levels in furthering their students’ knowledge in environmental education and coastal protection.
World Wetlands Day is designated as a day to raise global awareness about the value and benefits of wetlands for both humanity and the planet; it is celebrated every February 2nd. Wetlands provide an immense number of benefits to not only the surrounding areas via protection, but also thriving aquaculture industries and commodities on both a national and international level. Healthy wetlands play a vital role in sustaining life and acting as natural safeguards in extreme weather events through disaster risk reduction.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act participated in the appreciation of wetlands by attending the World Wetlands Day Celebration on February 2nd, 2017 at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma, La. The South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center hosted its 8th annual celebration by inviting third grade students from St. Matthews Episcopal School and Honduras Elementary, as well as sixth grade students from St. Francis de Sales Catholic School, totaling 185 local students, to learn about different aspects of wetlands. The CWPPRA Public Outreach Staff informed students about the relevance of wetlands by drawing connections between four different yet familiar types of wetlands and seafood, previous hurricane activity in the region, industry jobs, and wetland functionality. In order to do so, the CWPPRA staff incorporated the Where the Wild Things Are game to teach the students about wetland habitats and the animals living in them. This game consisted of students matching different wetland bean bag animals to the correct habitat: swamp, marsh, barrier island, and ocean. Where the Wild Things Are provides an opportunity for students to understand the connections between different wetland environments, recognize the adaptability of some animals to more than one habitat, and identify specific characteristics of each habitat, such as vegetation.
The Louisiana Sea Grant College Program hosted its annual educational, coastal-based event, Ocean Commotion, on October 27 at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. The primary purpose of Ocean Commotion is to give students the chance to learn about and touch the products of the sea and coast—the aquatic animals, plants, and minerals—upon which Louisiana’s citizens are so dependent. In attendance were 2,138 K-8 students, 121 teachers and 139 chaperons from East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Jefferson, East Feliciana, and Assumption parishes.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act encourages the connection between students and the coast by providing the opportunity to become “hands-on” with activities that foster interests in and curiosity for Louisiana’s passive shoreline environments. Among the 70 exhibits from universities, non-profits, state and local governments, student clubs, science and museum centers and K-12 student exhibitors was the CWPPRA Mysterious Wetland Wonders activity. Participants were encouraged to reach inside the seven mystery boxes, read clues, and try to identify the wetland item hidden inside each box without peeking! The mystery items included a seashell, apple snail shell, oyster shell, cypress knee, Spanish moss, nutria pelt, and a magnolia seed pod. In order for future generations to effectively protect our oceans, coastlines, and wetlands, learning about the importance and benefits of each is essential.
On October 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted the 19th Annual Wild Things Festival at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Headquarters in Lacombe, La. This exciting family-friendly event gives the community an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities while celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week. This free public event included canoe and pontoon boat tours, hayrides, live animals, wildflower walks, kids activities, bird house building, live music, and a youth wildlife art competition.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff was among the 40 exhibitors providing hands-on activities to encourage knowledge of the Louisiana outdoors. In order to accurately portray the importance of aquatic, coastal regions, the CWPPRA staff utilized an ocean character, Sid the Restoration Squid, whose six unique legs each represented a different restoration method. The six restoration methods include barrier island restorations, marsh creations, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration, freshwater and sediment diversions, and terracing. Each leg consisted of a distinct craft material that would correspond with a restoration method, in which children would assemble and personalize their own squid. Each child’s personal squid was accompanied by an explanation guide of CWPPRA’s efforts to restore, protect, and/or create Louisiana’s wetlands.
There are about 17,000 known threatened species in the world.
Louisiana’s wetlands are a complex, fragile ecosystem of flora, fauna, and water. The swamps, marshes and bayous of Louisiana represent approximately 40% of all the wetlands in the United States. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, in addition to pollution and other anthropogenic activities threaten the health of Louisiana’s wetlands and its inhabitants. Some of the threatened species in Louisiana include Atlantic Sturgeon, Northern Long-Eared Bat, Piping Plover, Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Red Knot, Louisiana Pearlshell Mussel, Alabama Heelsplitter Mussel, Earth Fruit, Ringed Map Turtle, and Gopher Tortoise. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act has protected, created, or restored 95,806 aces, while also enhanced more than 351,676 acres. CWPPRA plans to continue working to help coastal wetlands and their inhabitants.
On September 24th, nearly 1,000 Girl Scouts, their leaders and parents congregated at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La. to participate in the Believe In Girls (B.I.G.) event-the annual gathering of girl scouts from the 23 southeast Louisiana parishes to celebrate the beginning of a new scouting year.
The event offered a day of hands-on activities and presentations showcasing organizations which foster and encourage Girl Scout involvement and education, focusing on Girl Scout Initiatives such as STEM, healthy living, financial literacy and outdoor legacy. Keynote speaker, Representative Helena Moreno of Louisiana’s 93rd District encouraged the girls to seek their own identity and take pride in being a girl. Participants were encouraged to find exhibits displaying topics of interests according to each girls’ likes for a wider range of learning experiences.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff engaged the science interests of many participants by testing their coastal landscape, wildlife, and plant knowledge through CWPPRA’s Wetland Jeopardy and Wetland Animal Tracks games. Both games connect the importance of science to the significance of coastal protection and conservation. In addition to games, CWPPRA also provided Henri Heron’s Louisiana Wetlands activity book, stickers, wetland hero coloring sheets, and a variety of different CWPPRA publications.