Wetland Marshes

Marsh is a type of wetland that is continuously flooded with water. Emergent-soft stemmed vegetation is present in marsh due to the saturated soil conditions. In Louisiana, there are four types of wetland marsh: freshwater, intermediate, brackish, and salt. Marshes are classified according to the salinity of the water. The location of Louisiana marshes in relation to the Gulf of Mexico often directly correlates to the level of salt content in the water. Salinity also changes based upon rainfall, drainage, soil texture, vegetation, depth of water table, and freshwater inflow.

The salinity range for each marsh type is as follows:

  • Freshwater – 0 ppt (parts per thousand)
  • Intermediate – 0-5 ppt
  • Brackish – 5-15 ppt
  • Salt – 15 or greater ppt

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A wide variety of animals such as nutria, turtles, and many bird species can be spotted in the freshwater and intermediate marshes of Louisiana, as well as species of special concern like Louisiana black bears and Calcasieu painted crawfish. The exchange between freshwater and salt water is frequent in the state of Louisiana due to its close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. An estuary is characterized by this mixture of freshwater and salt forming brackish water where many wetland species spend their juvenile lives. The estuaries of coastal Louisiana support economically important fisheries and provide important wildlife habitat. Crabs, fish, and shrimp are a few of the animals found in Louisiana’s salt marsh, and birds like brown pelicans and reddish egrets often nest in the shrubby vegetation bordering salt marshes. Each of these marsh types play a significant role. It is vital to keep these marshes healthy for them to maintain their value and support the people, plants, and animals of Louisiana.

 

 

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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.

pintail duck wood duck mottled duck

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.

The Bald Cypress

In 1963, the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) was designated as Louisiana’s official state tree. The bald cypress’s deciduous character, unlike most conifers gives, it a “bald” appearance. This type of tree is rather majestic and can be spotted in the swamps of Louisiana. It has a swollen, ridged trunk at the base; widespread branches; reddish-brown bark; and roots that often cause what we know as cypress knees to appear around the tree. Although the bald cypress is widely adaptable, it prefers to grow in wet, swampy soils. Riverbanks, floodplains, and wet depressions are specific areas in which the bald cypress thrives.

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Bald cypresses provide habitat benefits to terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. The Louisiana forestry industry is also dependent on these cypress trees to contribute to a productive annual harvest with large monetary returns on the lumber and cypress mulch produced. The Atchafalaya Basin makes up a large share of the coastal wetlands, and more the half of the acreage of the Atchafalaya basin is cypress wetland forest. The bald cypresses of the wetlands are important to Louisiana’s culture, animal habitats, and the economy. Maintaining healthy cypress wetlands is critical to maintaining a natural storm buffer, filtering polluted water, providing irreplaceable habitats, and sustaining a thriving economy.

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National Wildlife Refuge

The National Wildlife Refuge System includes public lands and waters that are set aside to conserve America’s wildlife and vegetation. The protected areas of the National Wildlife Refuge are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Since initiation in the early 1900s, the system has grown immensely to over 500 National Wildlife Refuges.

A variety of habitats are managed by the National Wildlife Refuges, including wetlands, prairies, coastal and marine areas just to name a few.  Conserving the threatened or endangered species of these habitats is a primary focus of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Employees must manage the refuge by controlling invasive species, securing adequate water resources, and assessing external threats to the protected area.

If you’re interested in outdoor recreational activities like hunting, birding, fishing or even environmental education, National Wildlife Refuges welcome guests to participate in the year-round fun that can be found at a refuge in any of the fifty states. You can find a National Wildlife Refuge you would like to visit by clicking here.

 NWRS map

Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website to read more information and updates about the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Giant Salvinia

Giant Salvinia, or Salvinia adnata, often referred to as the green monster, poses a serious threat to wetland ecosystems. This highly invasive, aquatic plant species is native to Brazil. The floating aquatic fern has leaves covered with small hairs on the upper surface that become compressed into chains forming a dense, compiled mat-like structure. In the United States, it’s difficult to control Giant Salvinia due to the lack of legal herbicides that work efficiently to stop it from spreading. Giant Salvinia was first spotted in Chenier Plain Marshes in 2009; since then it has spread throughout.

This non-native plant species has an exceedingly rapid growth rate, and under the right conditions it can potentially take over a waterway causing catastrophic results. The mat blocks sunlight from penetrating into the water, ultimately killing phytoplankton and other aquatic plant species, as well as exhausting oxygen levels, which alters the area as a waterfowl habitat and degrades the water quality for fish. Giant Salvinia is unintentionally spread to new water bodies on boats and fishing gear. One way to prevent the expansion of Giant Salvinia is to properly clean boating equipment and vessels of any plant fragments. These plant fragments, garden, and aquarium plants should all be discarded properly in the trash and kept out of water bodies. It is important to properly control and dispose of the plant material in order to keep lakes, rivers, ponds and other freshwater wetlands functioning properly without the disturbance caused by Giant Salvinia.

Cyrtobagous salviniae, a species of weevil, is often referred to as the salvinia weevil due to being a biological pest control against the highly invasive Giant Salvinia. For more information on Giant Salvinia and CWPPRA’s efforts to control this invasive plant species visit the Coastwide Salvinia Weevil Propagation Facility (LA-284) Fact Sheet.

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.

It’s Blue Crab Season – Let’s Get Crackin’

FUN FACTS:

  • Female blue crabs mate only once during their lifetime.
  • The average lifespan of a blue crab is 3 years.
  • The scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, means “savory beautiful swimmer.”

Blue crabs are crustaceans with a hard upper shell, typically grey, blue, or brownish-green in color. The blue crab gets its name from its sapphire-tinted claws. Blue crabs have two large claws, six walking legs, and two paddle-like swimming legs. One thing that sets male and female crabs apart is that females have red tips on their claws. Another distinction between male and female blue crabs is the shape of the abdomen. A blue crab male’s abdomen has a long, narrow, inverted “T” shape while females have a broader, rounded “U” shaped abdomen.

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Blue crabs spend the majority of their lifetime in estuaries which often have accessible shorelines, making blue crabs a delicious challenge to catch. Blue crabs are not only sought after by commercial fishermen but recreational crabbing has become rather popular as well.

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Louisiana’s blue crab fishery is the largest in the United States accounting for more than half of the total amount harvested in the Gulf of Mexico each year. Blue crabs are prized for their sweet, tender meat and are one of the most popular forms of seafood in the United States.

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Blue crabs tend to feed on oysters, mussels, snails, plant and animal detritus, and even smaller or soft-shelled blue crabs. These creatures are very sensitive to environmental changes and populations will drastically decline if habitats are disturbed. The blue crab relies heavily on healthy wetlands for survival and the sustainability of their population. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act supports healthy estuaries that serve as habitat for species such as the blue crab.