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!

Coastwide Reference Monitoring System

In 1990, the U.S. Congress enacted the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) in response to the growing awareness of Louisiana’s land loss
crisis. CWPPRA was the first federal, statutorily mandated program with a stable source of funds dedicated exclusively to the short- and long-term restoration of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana. Between 1990 and 2016, 108 restoration projects were constructed through the CWPPRA program. These projects include diversions of freshwater and sediments to improve marsh vegetation; dredged material placement for marsh creation; shoreline protection; sediment and nutrient trapping; hydrologic restoration through outfall, marsh, and delta management; and vegetation planting on barrier islands.

The coastal protection and restoration efforts implemented through numerous CWPPRA crms_wetlandsprojects require monitoring and evaluation of project effectiveness. There is also a need to assess the cumulative effects of all projects to achieve a sustainable coastal environment. In 2003, the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (now CPRA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received approval from the CWPPRA Task Force to implement the Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) as a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of CWPPRA projects at the project, region, and coastwide levels (Steyer and others, 2003). The CRMS network is currently funded through CWPPRA and provides data for a variety of user groups, including resource managers, academics, landowners, and researchers.

The effectiveness of a traditional monitoring approach using paired treatment and reference sites is limited in coastal Louisiana because of difficulty in finding comparable test sites; therefore, a multiple reference approach using aspects of hydrogeomorphic functional assessments and probabilistic sampling was adapted into the CRMS design. The CRMS approach gathers information from a suite of sites that encompass a range of ecological conditions across the coast. Trajectories of changing conditions within the reference sites can then be compared with trajectories of change within project sites. The CRMS design not only allows for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of each project but will also support ongoing evaluation of the cumulative effects of all CWPPRA projects throughout the coastal ecosystems of Louisiana. Simulations made by using the resampling methodology described in Steyer and others (2003) indicated that 100 randomly selected reference sites would accurately represent the true composition of coastwide vegetation at a 95 percent confidence level. However, in order to detect a 20 percent change in coastal marsh vegetation between two time periods, at least 80 percent of the time, approximately 400 reference sites were needed. Because of land rights and other technical issues, 390 sites with a fixed annual sampling design were approved and secured for CRMS data collection. These 390 CRMS sites are located within nine coastal basins and four CWPPRA regions, covering the entire Louisiana coast. Site construction and data collection began in 2005.

Because of the quantity of products and data that will be produced over the lifetime of the CRMS project, a website (http://www.lacoast.gov/crms) was designed to be a one-stop shop for CRMS information, products, and data. The ecological data available through the website are linked to the official Louisiana CPRA database – the Coastal Information Management System (CIMS), which houses all CWPPRA monitoring data, on topics such as the following: hydrology, herbaceous marsh vegetation, forested swamp vegetation, soil properties, soil accretion, and surface elevation. Data provided by the Louisiana CPRA are available for downloading at https://cims.coastal.louisiana.gov/. The basic viewer (under Mapping) on the CRMS Web site provides a user-friendly interface for viewing information on specific sampling sites, including photos, data summaries, and report cards. Analytical teams are developing mechanisms by which individual sampling sites can be assessed in relation to other sites within the same marsh type, hydrologic basin, and CWPPRA project. These multi-scale evaluations will be presented on a “Report Card” tab within the basic viewer. The CRMS program is as dynamic as the coastal habitats it monitors. The program continues to develop new products and analysis tools while providing data for model improvement and scientific research. The CRMS Web site is the current dissemination mechanism for all activities related to the program. For a beginner’s guide to retrieving CRMS data, visit https://www.lacoast.gov/new/Ed/CRMS_Manual.pdf.

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Reference:

Steyer, G.D., Sasser, C.E., Visser, J.M., Swensen, E.M., Nyman, J.A., and Raynie, R.C., 2003, A proposed coast-wide reference monitoring system for evaluating wetland restoration trajectories in Louisiana: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 81, p. 107–117.

Terracing

CWPPRA Restoration Technique: Terracing

The goal of building terraces is to achieve some of the same objectives as full marsh creation but over a larger area of open water, where marsh creation alone is not feasible. Terraces are long, earthen berms that are built by mechanically dredging material and piling and shaping the material to a desired height. Most terraces average around 3 feet tall, with shallow side slopes and a wide base. This size and shape optimize the amount of terrace that falls in the intertidal zone and will support wetland vegetation.

The objectives of constructing terraces are several and depend upon the location in which they are built. These include acting as a sediment trap to help build new land, reducing wave fetch and erosion on adjacent marsh shorelines, creating habitat for fish and waterfowl, and improving water quality to promote the growth of aquatic vegetation. Terracing projects constructed under CWPPRA have achieved each of these goals, with sediment trapping being most evident near the openings of sediment-laden bays or navigational waterways.

Terracing has become a widely used technique that is expanding across the Gulf Coast because of the success and cost-effectiveness demonstrated through CWPPRA and privately funded projects. Although these features may not look like natural marsh and often use geometric configurations, they are able to perform a lot of the functions of natural marsh in areas that have become vast open water. Developing this cost-effective technique for use in areas that have few other restoration options is a testament to CWPPRA’s ability to adapt to funding constraints and a quickly changing environment.

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TV-12 Little Vermilion Bay Sediment Trapping

 

 

 

 

Marsh Creation

CWPPRA Restoration Technique: Marsh Creation

Marsh creation replicates the natural land-building process of the Mississippi River in a controlled, and much accelerated, fashion. Land is built by a pipeline dredge that removes sediment from a “borrow” site by using a specialized vessel outfitted with a drill, suction pump, and pipe. As the drill, or cutterhead, spins, it agitates sediment at the bottom of the borrow site. This sediment is then pumped with water into a pipe that carries the resultant slurry to the restoration site. Once the slurry is in place, the water runs off as the sediment settles to form new land. Native vegetation is then installed to jump-start wetland productivity. Marsh creation projects result in restored wetlands in areas that were open water just weeks before.

CWPPRA is striving to identify and construct projects that provide strategic benefits by holding together larger ecosystems and that use renewable sediment resources like the river. Over the course of 26 years, CWPPRA has been restoring one piece of broken marsh at a time, which cumulatively yields significant results over time. The long-term vision is to sustain these restored marshes by restoring part of the riverine processes that first built them.

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PO-104 Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Creation Project

 

World Water Day

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!

Wetlands

 

 

 

Shoreline Protection

CWPPRA Restoration Technique: Shoreline Protection

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.

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BA-26 Barataria Bay Waterway East Side Shoreline Protection