The Pantanal — The Largest Wetland in the World

Located in the heart of South America is the world’s largest wetland that has not been significantly modified by humans, the Pantanal. The Pantanal is often referred to as South America’s biggest biodiversity star. However, it is also one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, often overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest. This massive wetland covers an area estimated at 75,000 square miles across Bolivia, Paraguay, and (mostly) Brazil. The Pantanal is home to over 4,700 species of plants and animals.

The array of life in the Pantanal relies on an annual flooding cycle. When it rains, about 80 percent of the floodplain is submerged underwater; throughout the dry season the water lessens. This process is essential to nurturing a biologically diverse collection of plants and providing nutrients that the wetlands need to flourish. An area that is the size of Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and Portugal combined needs a lot of water to guarantee that it continues to flood and a healthy ecosystem is preserved. The quality of the water is also important to maintaining a nourishing environment. Recently, human activity has been threatening this precious wetland. The Pantanal is threatened by intensive farming, deforestation, and pollution. Few signs of this situation improving are shown, and environmental issues are difficult to resolve quickly. Conservation of the biodiversity and natural resources of the Pantanal is essential.

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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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Louisiana’s Seafood Ecology

For centuries, Louisiana has had a prospering commercial seafood industry. The catching and selling of shrimp, crabs, oysters, alligator, fish, and crawfish have sustained the livelihood of many families.  As one of the country’s largest seafood suppliers, Louisiana contributes more than 850 million total pounds of high-quality seafood to restaurants and homes across the world each year.

Louisiana’s fisheries are an integral part of our economy through providing jobs, as well as income and tax revenue. One of every seventy jobs in Louisiana is related to the seafood industry. As a whole, this leaves an economic impact of over $2.4 billion annually for the state of Louisiana. For many of the industrious fishermen who work Louisiana’s waters, their craft of bringing the finest seafood to the plates of people around the world has been passed down for many generations.

What makes Louisiana waters so plentiful? The abundance of seafood caught and served around the world all starts with our estuaries. An estuary is an ecosystem commonly located where a river meets the sea. Estuaries are inhabited by an array of plant and animal species that have adapted to a mixture of fresh and salt water caused by tidal flow. This changing mixture makes estuaries a fertile region for a variety of marine life. Along with estuaries providing an abundance of seafood, they also provide access to recreational activities and breeding and migratory locations and shelter for fish and wildlife.

Did You Know?

  • 75% of the United States commercial sea catch comes from estuaries.
  • 37% of estuary marshes in the United States are in Louisiana.
  • Louisiana is the largest commercial fishery in the United States.
  • Louisiana estuaries comprise the seventh largest estuary in the world.

You can help maintain healthy estuaries by keeping your estuary area clean of trash and robust for our seafood industries, wildlife, vegetation, and others to enjoy! Louisiana’s seafood industry promotes innovations that protect our coastline and help keep our waters clean. When you select Louisiana seafood, you are supporting the lifestyle and environment Louisiana natives have depended on for centuries. As they say about Louisiana seafood, “know better, eat better.”

Wetland Crustacean

Crawfish

crawfish

A well-known part of Louisiana’s culture is the state’s unique cuisine and the celebrations and gatherings which surround it. During late winter and spring, Louisiana’s state crustacean, the crawfish, is at the heart of many celebrations. The crawfish, an easily recognizable icon in Louisiana’s rich history and economy, has made an important impact on the state.

The two species of crawfish harvested for commercial use are the Red Crawfish (Procambarus clarki) and White or River Crawfish (Procambarus acutus). While looking very similar, the White Crawfish has one slender and one large pincer and inhabits deeper bodies of water when compared with the Red Crawfish which has two large pincers and is commonly found in bayous, ditches, and swamps. Although the characteristic habitat location varies among the two species, most harvested boil sacks contain both Red and White Crawfish. Both species’ living environments surround wetlands and coastal regions where the aquaculture industry has skyrocketed and continues to thrive.

Crawfish are important to Louisiana’s economy, and more than 7,000 people depend directly or indirectly on the crawfish industry. Crawfish provide an abundance of jobs as they are caught by fishermen, sold, processed, distributed, and shipped, and then finally make their way to customers or onto a restaurant table. Technology has advanced the methods of harvest such that crawfish farming has developed into the largest freshwater crustacean aquaculture industry in the United States. Louisiana leads the nation in crawfish production with nearly 800 commercial fishermen harvesting from wetlands like the Atchafalaya Basin and more than 1,600 farmers harvesting in some 111,000 acres of ponds. The total impact on the Louisiana economy exceeds $300 million annually, with a combined annual yield ranging from 120-150 million pounds.

Eat more crawfish, cher! 

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Ocean Commotion 2016

oc-01The 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.

Louisiana Science & Math Teacher Conference 2016

The Louisiana Association of Teachers of Mathematics (LATM) and the Louisiana Science Teachers Association (LSTA) held its 2016 Joint Conference: Cultivating STEM for the Future on October 24-26 at the Baton Rouge River Center. The LATM/LSTA joint conference’s focal point was the integration of math and science in the classroom. The conference provided an opportunity for educators of math and science to gain knowledge, tools, and strategies through interactive extended sessions, field experiences, and concurrent sessions. Over the duration of the three-day conference, exhibitors showcased educational materials and instructional equipment in order to further aid the teachers in math and science literacy. The CWPPRA Public Outreach staff shared educational materials and publications applicable to environmental science teachers and others seeking knowledge about Louisiana’s coastline.

Managing Agencies

For 25 years, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act has provided the only joint Federal/State coastal restoration effort with a predictable and recurring funding stream designed to restore the vanishing wetlands of coastal Louisiana. The CWPPRA program continues to pursue a full slate of coastal restoration activities, and its progress and experience provide the foundation for restoration supported by one-time funding from various other sources. CWPPRA represents a collaborative effort and is managed by a Task Force comprised of five federal agencies and the State of Louisiana. CWPPRA’s Managing Agencies include:

U.S. Department of the Army – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 6

U.S. Department of Interior – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resource Conservation Service

U.S. Department of Commerce – NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

State of Louisiana – Governor’s Office

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is the local cost-share partner that matches 15% of CWPPRA’s federal funding.