Oysters for Coastal Restoration

More than a seafood delicacy, oysters are an incredible natural resource. They are extremely helpful to our environment by filtering water, providing habitat, and controlling erosion. Adult oysters may filter up to two and a half gallons of water per hour, which in turn improves water quality. Oysters build reefs that provide habitat for fish, shrimp, crabs, and other aquatic animals. Oyster larvae need the hard, shell surface for settlement and growth. A special focus that has been put on oysters recently is their ability to control land erosion.

Oyster reefs have been constructed along eroding shorelines in an effort to lessen wave energy and ultimately reduce erosion. Seven of our nation’s fifteen largest shipping ports are located along the Gulf of Mexico. The wakes created by the cargo ships heighten erosion along an already disappearing coastline.

Globally, it is estimated that 85% of oyster reefs have been lost. Large-scale restoration projects can create man-made oyster reefs that duplicate many of the benefits of natural reefs. Oysters and the massive reefs provide a foundation for a healthy ecosystem. The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) founded the Oyster Shell Recycling Program in 2014. This program collects shells from New Orleans area restaurants and utilizes the shells to restore fading oyster reefs that protect Louisiana’s coastline.  A majority of shell removed from the coast is not returned back to the waters. It is vital to Louisiana’s disappearing coastline that oyster shells are brought back to help as a line of defense for coastal restoration.

 

World Oceans Day

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!

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World Turtle Day

On May 23, we celebrated the 17th annual World Turtle Day sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. This nonprofit organization was established in 1990 to protect all species of tortoises and turtles. They created World Turtle Day to serve as an annual observance of protecting tortoises and turtles around the world and their disappearing habitats. Wetlands that serve as habitat for turtles include shallow fresh waters, pelagic salt waters, and heavily and scarcely vegetated areas. Various species of turtles reside in every type of wetland environment.

Did You Know?

  • The majority of turtles that you see on the road are females traveling to their annual nesting sites.
  • Turtles like to eat dead material lying on the bottom of ponds, lakes, and wetlands. Turtles keep the water clean!
  • Snapping turtles rarely snap at humans in water. They do not like the way people smell or taste.
  • If you are helping a turtle cross the road, be sure to move the turtle in the same direction it was originally headed. DO NOT turn it back around! It is likely it will try to cross the road again.
  • If you touch a turtle, it is important that you wash your hands thoroughly. Turtles may carry salmonella.

How to Protect Turtles?

  • Avoid walking or driving on sandy areas where turtles are nesting.
  • Create a “no wake zone” to reduce damage to shoreline wetland habitats and stop the removal of plant materials.
  • Do not remove turtles from their natural habitats.

What Can You Do?

  • You can put signs and small barriers around nesting sites and wetlands that are on your property.
  • You can contact local programs to help pay for habitat restoration in your area.
  • You can add beneficial features to turtle habitat by planting native plants to buffer wetlands and turtle nesting areas. This will attract frogs, snails, insects, and other species that turtles eat.

Families Learn about the Importance of Wetlands

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.

Talking Wetland Habitat and Wildlife with ESA Students

Environmental Studies students in Christina Hidalgo’s class at the Episcopal School of Acadiana do more than learn about general environmental issues; they also get outside and participate in direct monitoring of the ecosystems around them. On February 21st and 23rd they were joined by Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act staff to discuss coastal habitats, the mammal species that call them home, and different wildlife monitoring techniques.

On Tuesday CWPPRA staff and ESA students discussed the importance of barrier beach systems for both human and wildlife communities, and students were given training in how researchers trap small mammal populations in those locations for monitoring. After students deployed small mammal traps around the ESA Cade campus on Wednesday, CWPPRA staff returned Thursday morning to help with trap collection and see what students had captured. In addition to trapping a variety of insects drawn to the oatmeal-soybean bait and several traps which had been moved by larger animals, ESA students successfully captured a marsh rice rat (Oryzomys palustris)!

These rodents are found throughout the Gulf and mid-to-south Atlantic coasts and as far inland as Illinois and Kansas. As the name suggests, marsh rice rats are generally found in wetland areas, although drier areas with dense grasses and sedges, while not ideal habitat, are also utilized. A native species in Louisiana, marsh rice rats can even be found out on barrier islands where their omnivorous diet lets them take advantage of both terrestrial food resources and items that wash ashore. The rat captured on the ESA campus was trapped near a stream and probably forages along that water body at night. Finding a marsh rice rat on a school campus is a reminder that wetland habitats come in a range of sizes and types and that we share those habitats with many different species.

Bayou Grande Cheniere Marsh & Ridge Restoration

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Significant marsh loss has occurred south of Lake Hermitage with the construction of numerous oil and gas canals, subsidence, and sediment deprivation. The most significant loss occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. Based on the hyper-temporal analysis conducted by USGS for the extended boundary, loss rates in the project area are estimated to be -1.16% per ear for the period 1984 to 2011.

The goals of the Bayou Grande Cheniere Marsh and Ridge Restoration Project (BA-173) are to restore marsh habitat adjacent to the eastern shoreline of Bayou Grande Cheniere, reestablish the corresponding section of the bayou’s forested ridge habitat along this shoreline, and create terraces to restore marsh in open water habitat. Specific objectives are to 1) restore 302 acres of brackish marsh habitat, 2) construct the marsh platform to an elevation that supports healthy marsh; 3) reestablish 10,625 linear feet of the historic Bayou Grande Cheniere Ridge to an elevation that supports healthy woody vegetation, 4) establish the ridge with diverse native woody species, and 5) construct 12,000 linear feet of terraces to an elevation that will support healthy marsh.

Riverine sediments will be hydraulically dredged and pumped via pipeline to create/nourish approximately 302 acres of marsh. Containment dikes will be constructed around the perimeter of the marsh creation cells. The proposed design is to place the dredged material to a target fill elevation of +3.0 feet which would ultimately settle to an approximate elevation of just under +0.75 feet NAVD88 (Geoid 12A) at TY20. Tidal creeks are expected to form naturally and containment dikes will be gapped and degraded to enhance the naturally formed tidal creeks.

Hydraulically dredged river sediments will be used to restore 10,625 linear feet of the Bayou Grande Cheniere Ridge. The ridge will have 25-ft crown width, a target height of +4.5 ft NAVD88, and side slopes of 1(V):8(H). Herbaceous plantings (e.g., seashore paspalum) will be necessary immediately after construction and bottomland hardwood species (seedlings and saplings) will be planted by Year 3. Funding for tallow control and maintenance plantings is also included.

In addition, 11,700 linear feet of earthen terraces will be constructed resulting in the creation of approximately 10 acres of wetlands benefiting 154 acres of open water. Each terrace segment will be approximately 450 feet long and built to an elevation of +3.0 feet, with a 25-foot crown width and 1(V):4(H) side slopes. The terraces will be constructed with a bucket dredge using in situ material from within the terrace field.

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This project is located in Plaquemines Parish west of the Mississippi River near West Pointe a la Hache. Specifically, the project features are south of Lake Hermitage and along the eastern side of Bayou Grande Cheniere.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 23.

The Bayou Grande Cheniere Marsh & Ridge Restoration project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

 

National Wildlife Refuge Week

This week’s Wetland Wednesday highlights National Wildlife Refuges in honor of

National Wildlife Refuge Week

So, what is a national wildlife refuge? A national wildlife refuge is a designated area of land which is protected and managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. These public land and water areas are dedicated to conserving wildlife and plants, while providing outreach and educational opportunities to inform the public on habitats and species relevant to the local area. These refuges manage a broad range of landscapes/habitat types such as wetlands, prairies, coastal and marine areas, and temperate, tundra, and boreal forests; as a result, each different habitat type attracts its own web of inhabitants. Many of the national refuges are responsible for rising numbers of endangered species, such as whooping cranes in Louisiana, which are federally protected and closely monitored. National Wildlife Refuges manage six wildlife-dependent recreational uses in accordance with National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, including hunting, fishing, birding, photography, environmental education, and interpretation. Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week by taking part in recreational activities and efforts to maintain safe, sustainable areas for local wildlife.

Click here to find a National Wildlife Refuge near you!

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