Wild Things

On Saturday, October 13th, the CWPPRA outreach team rolled up to the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters in Lacombe, LA for Wild Things. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts on Wild Things every year during National Wildlife Refuge Week to celebrate wildlife and getting out into nature. This year we brought our Wetland Wonders game, along with all our regular publications. We underestimated how popular our materials would be and quickly ran out of everything. We were set up on a beautiful day in the shade. Nearby, families could learn about wilderness survival, injured bird rehabilitation, native animal and plant species, and much more.

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The Wetland Wonders game was well-received by children and adults alike. We had a short lull around lunchtime but otherwise the boxes constantly had visitors. Our Wetland Wonders activity asks players to guess the object inside the box without looking at it. Players can feel inside and read clues that are on the front of the boxes. Many people start out timid from the mystery but play the game once they believe there is nothing alive or gross in the boxes. We enjoy events like this and we urge you to seek similar events for your family and friends. To find more events by the Fish and Wildlife Service, you can visit their website and search for your nearest Wildlife Refuge. Get out and #ProtectOurCoast!

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Soil Biology

Soil biology may be considered the most important component of soil health and production [1]. Soil food web’s have tiny, microscopic organisms; also known as microorganisms. These living creatures may be tiny, but they live as very large populations in the soil, and other natural environments like water, air, and plants roots.

Soil_Food_Web

The Four Main Microorganism Groups of Soil:

  1. Soil Bacteria (mostly decomposers) [2].
  2. Soil Fungi
  3. Soil Protozoa (feed mostly on bacteria) [4].
  4. Soil Nematodes (feed on plants, bacteria, fungi, and/or other nematodes) [5].

The other two main groups of Soil Biology:

  1. Soil Arthropods (have no backbone) [6].
  2. Soil Earthworms

Soil Organisms

Microorganisms help bind soil together, which helps clean the soil and hold water for plant life. In ecosystems like wetlands, diverse communities of bacteria can help plants fight off harmful diseases. A major benefit of soil microorganisms is the decomposition of dead plant and animal life, along with the breakdown and creation of nutrients.

Advantages of Soil Organisms: [1, 10].

  • Create healthy nutrients for plants
  • Improve Soil Health and quality (nutrient rich, water holding capacity)
  • Fight off diseases for plants
  • Degrade human-caused pollutants (fertilizers, pesticides used in agriculture)
  • Benefit the food-web as a whole
  • Improve plant health and longevity
  • Microbiomes transform dead plant materials into soil organic matter

The living organisms of the soil provide the requirements needed to support plant, animal, and human life. You can support healthy microorganism communities in soil by: 

  • decreasing or preventing plowing and tilling in garden and agriculture fields [9].
  • plant cover crops to reduce soil erosion and funnel carbon into the atmosphere [9].
  • conserving microbes that provide biomass to plants
  • incorporate soil health management systems into your daily practices [10]
  • protect the soil from weather applying mulch / and or cover crops
  • proper composting

Interesting Facts draft2

Work Cited:
[1] Effective Microorganisms of New Zealand, https://www.emnz.com/article/soil-health-series-soil-microbes
[2] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Bacteria”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053862
[3] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Food Web & Soil Health”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053865
[4] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Protozoa”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053867
[5] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Nematodes”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053866
[6] Moldenke, Andrew R. “Soil Arthropods”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053861
[7] Pollard, Peter. (27 March 2018) "Microbes and the Missing Carbon Dioxide". Tedx Noosa, [Video File], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48UtbgtFKTg 
[8] USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service “Soil Food Web”. 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/health/biology/ 
[9] Wallenstein, Matthew. "To Restore Our Soils, Feed The Microbes". The Conservation, 27 March 2018, https://theconversation.com/to-restore-our-soils-feed-the-microbes-79616
[10] Zimmerman, Chuck. "General Mills Backing Soil Health Program". Ag-Wired, 27 March 2018, http://agwired.com/2017/04/26/general-mills-backing-soil-health-program/
[11] Pollard, Peter. (27 March 2018) "Microbes and the Missing Carbon Dioxide". Tedx Noosa, [Video File], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48UtbgtFKTg

 

Decomposing in the salt marsh

Throughout the year salt marshes exhibit cycles of birth, growth, and death. That may be most obvious when looking at the plants, but it also applies to animals, bacteria, and fungi, sometimes on longer and sometimes on shorter time scales. Since marshes are such productive ecosystems, what happens to all of that organic matter when something dies, be it a leaf, single-celled organism, or alligator? Detrivores are an important part of the marsh ecosystem, breaking down organic matter and cycling nutrients; in fact, in salt marshes, detrivores are the dominant consumers.

 

Fiddler-Crab-688
Fiddler crabs separate decaying matter from sand and mud. Photo from NPS (https://www.nps.gov/foma/learn/nature/crustaceans.htm)

Most decaying plant matter in a salt marsh is consumed by bacteria and fungi, which are then food for larger creatures, but a host of species in the salt marsh are detrivores: snails, crabs, amphipods, nematodes, fish, and many others. Some of these, like fiddler crabs, feed by finding pieces of detritus on grains of sand and soil, while others specialize on a particular species’ remains. Gammarus palustris is an amphipod which consumes the dead leaves from salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). Zimmer et al. (2004) suggested a variety of detrivores were needed in any habitat type for efficient decomposition and that you couldn’t substitute one species for another- the different species contribute in different ways. Whether big or small, detrivores keep nutrients moving within the system and prevent dead organic matter from building up, and that helps salt marshes continue to be so productive.

Works Cited:

Zimmer, M, Pennings, SC, Buck, TL and TH Carefoot. 2004. Salt marsh litter and detrivores: a closer look at redundancy. Estuaries 27: 753-769.

The Louisiana Iris

What we typically refer to as the Louisiana iris actually consists of five species native to Louisiana and surrounding regions in the Southeastern United States. Iris brevicaulis, Iris fulva, Iris giganticaerulea, Iris hexagona and Iris nelsonii are known as the Louisiana irises. These five species participate in interbreeding which results in the variety of irises we grow today.

It is suggested to plant Louisiana iris between the months of August and September when they are dormant for optimal results. However, if you prefer to pick out the colors and types of flowers, it is best to wait until the flowers are in bloom to be sure of what you are planting. Garden cultivation and hybridizing have caused Louisiana iris to bloom in shades of blue, red, yellow, pink, brown, white, purple, and more. The wide range of colors and native quality make it an attractive addition to aquatic gardens and ordinary flower beds. Louisiana irises will grow best with as much direct sunlight as possible.

Within their native habitats, irises often grow along freshwater bayous and sloughs. This wetland vegetation has little tolerance for salt water. The Louisiana iris is at risk due to dredging through wetlands leading to saltwater intrusion. CWPPRA hydrologic restoration and freshwater diversion projects help regulate salinity and restore the natural hydrology of wetlands, ultimately preserving the iris as well as other native plants and animals. Learn more about how to #ProtectOurCoast and its native species at lacoast.gov.

Wetland Recreation

Summer Recreation in the Wetlands

Are you looking to engage in outdoor fun this summer? Well, look no further. This Wetland Wednesday will give you plenty of ideas on how to enjoy the sunshine while spending time in one of Louisiana’s vibrant ecosystem.

One of our wetlands’ greatest qualities is providing outdoor recreation. During the summer, wetlands attract visitors of all ages to partake in boating, fishing, canoeing, photography, bird-watching, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature. Louisiana, often called “Sportsman’s Paradise,” earned this nickname due to its rich history of sports and recreation that takes place along its beautiful marshes and bayous.

This summer, The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act encourages the public to spend time in the wetlands that have made Louisiana an attraction worldwide. While utilizing the wetlands, be mindful of the wildlife and participate in keeping our wetlands healthy and clean.

 

 

 

 

World Migratory Bird Day

World Migratory Bird Day was initiated over ten years ago as a way to raise global awareness for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. Each year, people around the world organize events, such as bird festivals, exhibitions, and bird-watching excursions to celebrate this day. All activities celebrating World Migratory Bird Day are tied together by a common theme. World Migratory Bird Day 2017 was officially celebrated on Saturday, May 13 with the theme “Their Future is Our Future,” which shed light on the interdependence between people, nature, and migratory animals — particularly birds. The goal of this year’s campaign is to raise awareness of the need for sustainable management of natural resources, including wetlands, demonstrating that bird conservation is crucial for the future of humanity.

Among the wetland attributes society aims to protect and restore are those that benefit wildlife, such as migratory birds. One of the best known functions of wetlands is to provide a habitat for birds to breed, nest, and rear their young. This natural resource is used for drinking water, feeding, shelter, and social interactions. Wetland vegetation provides protection for migratory birds from predators and destructive weather. The presence of an adequate shelter is often crucial to the survival of migratory birds.

The value of a wetland varies for each bird species depending on the amount of surface water, amount of moist soils present, and the duration of flooding. Other factors that commonly affect the value of wetlands to a specific bird species are availability of food and shelter and the presence or absence of predators within the wetland. Availability of water influences whether migratory birds will be present, how the birds will interact with the wetland, and which species will be present. Species of migratory birds may spend the winter months in the Southern United States using the wetlands for food and nutrients to sustain them for their journey north. Many migratory birds are highly dependent on wetlands during the migration and breeding seasons. Habitat loss in breeding areas means population loss for most wetland dependent birds.

May: American Wetlands Month

During the month of May, we recognize and celebrate the various ways that wetlands enrich the environment and people. American Wetlands Month is a time to celebrate why wetlands are indispensable to the ecological, economic, and social health of our country. It is a full month to encourage both communities and individuals to actively participate in the planning, protection, and restoration of our wetlands. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partners with other federal and private partners in celebration of American Wetlands Month each May. These organizations schedule events throughout the month of May to engage those who are striving to better understand the value of wetlands to our country.

An entire month dedicated to American Wetlands speaks volumes on how valuable this natural resource is, although it is among the least understood. Wetlands help improve water quality and supply, reduce flooding, and provide critical habitat for plants, fish and wildlife. Government regulations and zoning restrictions are not enough to protect and restore wetlands alone. Americans must also participate in these efforts to save our wetlands.

History of American Wetlands Month

In 1991, American Wetlands Month was created in effort to celebrate the importance of wetlands and educate Americans about the value of this natural resource. A wide range of individuals with ties to wetlands participate in events and celebrations throughout the month of May to increase awareness of the benefits wetlands provide with hopes of inspiring people to work year-round to protect and expand our wetlands.

Explore Wetlands Around You!

Wetlands are present in all 50 states. It is likely that a wetland exists nearby for you to explore and increase your education during American Wetlands Month and throughout the year. Take some time to learn about wetlands and ways to protect the wetlands around you!