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!
Water, promoter of all life forms on Earth, is recognized today- World Water Day! In Louisiana, 47% of the state’s population resides in the coastal zone, with a majority of livelihoods reliant on water. Industries such as aquaculture, agriculture, oil and gas, and tourism depend on the sustainability and quality of Louisiana’s waters. This essential natural resource has a synergistic relationship with Louisiana’s wetlands, providing vital nourishment to fisheries, wildlife, and Louisiana’s coastal growth. Wetlands improve water quality by trapping suspended solids and filtering other pollutants. Coastal marshes filter excess nitrogen and phosphorus, thus helping to prevent algal blooms and maintaining oxygen in the water for fish and shellfish. Wetlands can retain, remove, and transform nutrients that might otherwise contribute to declining water quality. Clean water is important for healthy fish, wildlife, and humans. Water is not only a commodity, but a contributor to life… appreciate it, preserve it, and protect it!
Water is the key to life, celebrate World Water Day!
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.
Hypoxia is the lack of oxygen in the water column. In the Gulf of Mexico’s Texas-Louisiana Shelf, hypoxia is defined as seasonally low oxygen levels (less than 2 milligrams/liter). This Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” is caused by input of excess nutrient pollution, primarily nitrogen, to the gulf from the Mississippi River. Due to an overabundance of nutrients, excessive algal growth (eutrophication) may result and demand large quantities of oxygen which decreases both dissolved oxygen in the water and available aquatic habitat in the water column. The significant decrease in levels of dissolved oxygen in the water column results in the death of fish and shellfish and/or in their migration away from the hypoxic zone. The northern Gulf of Mexico adjacent to the Mississippi River is the site of the largest hypoxic zone in the United States (8.5 million acres) and the second largest hypoxic zone worldwide. Freshwater and sediment diversions from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers may help reduce the hypoxic zone off Louisiana’s coast by channeling nutrient-rich waters into coastal wetlands, where the nutrients can be used or trapped by marsh and aquatic vegetation.
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.