Soil Pollution

Today is World Soils Day, time to talk about soil pollution and wetlands! Soil pollution is often referred to as “invisible” because, although pollution can be detected through testing [LINK TESTING], it is much more difficult to see with the naked eye. Some of the biggest players in soil pollution today are improper waste management, agricultural runoff, and industrial processes. You may not think you are directly impacted by soil pollution, but you are.

Polluted soil in agricultural fields is arguably the most direct impact to humans because the pollutants are taken into the crop, whether it is a plant or animal, and make it into our food stream. [1] Pollutants in soils are also less hospitable to plant recruits, which is terrible news for coastal Louisiana. Our coastal wetlands provide us with many things that we rely on, and we cannot afford to lose our wetlands to preventable pollution. When soils do not incorporate healthy plant roots, they are much more susceptible to erosion. When moving sediments around, CWPPRA wants to make sure that plants can re-establish effectively, so they want healthy soils. [2]

Areas with unsustainable levels of pollution are spreading, and non-point source pollution, which includes road and agricultural runoff, is very hard to track and very hard to remediate. Pollutants are not easily scrubbed from soils on a mass scale and so they follow the flow of water. Runoff travels through watersheds just like clean water and makes its way into our coastal wetlands with damaging consequences. Coastal wetlands are resilient ecosystems, but they have limits. We cannot overburden them with harmful, carefree attitudes towards pollution. Our coast deserves to be protected. Our coast deserves to be respected.

[1] https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/bioaccumulationbiomagnificationeffects.pdf

[2] https://www.lacoast.gov/crms/crms_public_data/publications/CRMS_FactSheet_Web.pdf

Featured image from https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/2017/12/15/are-wetlands-really-the-earths-kidneys/

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America Recycles And So Do We

Recycling is a great practice at home, but it reaches far beyond taking materials out of the waste stream. Tomorrow, November 15th, is designated as America Recycles Day, so today’s Wetland Wednesday is hopeful about the future of sustainability.

New materials require exploration and processing that can be destructive to ecosystems. Plastics, some of the most common materials in the product stream today, are largely recyclable. As a crude oil byproduct, producing new usable plastics requires a lot of energy. The same goes for many other recyclable materials. Paper products, various metals, and glass all take a lot of energy to produce, then they quickly find their way into landfills instead of being reused. Landfills produce a wide array of chemicals that often leach into the ground due to poor containment practices, and they can contaminate watersheds. Once those chemicals get into a watershed, they can significantly decrease the health of wetlands across huge swaths of land over time. To further the polluting effects, drilling for oil to meet a growing desire for fossil fuels is one of the most detrimental practices to wetlands. More than 5 years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana wetlands continued to lose ground due to the spill’s impact. [1]

Recycling is not a perfect alternative to single-use plastics, and there are other ways to reduce our consumption of resources. For example, mitigating loss of byproducts by finding new and inventive applications can greatly reduce consequences. Large-scale food manufacturing leaves plenty of byproduct as leftover plant material that can be used as livestock feed, potentially as biofuels, or fertilizer. In the meat industry, byproducts are often further processed and commercialized to maximize the use of all parts of animals. CWPPRA and our partners have changed some practices in recent years to be more efficient when using resources, for example beneficial use of dredged material (yes, we recycled our header image). Mandatory dredging of shipping and navigational channels produces a bounty of sediment that was lost in the past, but we can now use that material in restoration projects. This exciting new practice has already been implemented in a few CWPPRA projects to restore marshland and nourish pre-existing wetlands.

Our coast faces many human-caused threats, and its future depends, in part, on practices becoming more sustainable. By using new technologies to better use resources, CWPPRA hopes that Louisiana’s natural splendor and resilience can continue to benefit future generations.

[1] https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70178409

 

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.

Keep Louisiana Beautiful Conference 2016

Keep Louisiana Beautiful (KLB) is the state’s anti-litter and community improvement organization. Affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, KLB’s mission is to “promote personal, corporate and community responsibility for a clean and beautiful Louisiana.” Founded in 2000, Keep Louisiana Beautiful’s focus in on education, enforcement, awareness, litter removal and beautification. The 39 affiliates and 23,000 volunteers improve communities and transform public spaces. Everyone knows that litter is harmful to the environment; however, knowing about the problem doesn’t solve it. In order to create a litter-free Louisiana, everyone must do their part. Keep Louisiana Beautiful provides the tools and resources needed to  improve a community’s appearance and preserve Louisiana’s natural beauty.

Keep Louisiana Beautiful hosted its annual state conference on September 28-29 at the Galvez Building Conference Center in Baton Rouge, La. The conference opened with welcome messages from Tricia Farace, KLB Board Member; Kip Holden, mayor of Baton Rouge; Denise Bennet, Deputy Secretary La. Department of Environmental Quality; and Eligha Guillory, Master of Ceremonies. Following the welcome remarks was keynote speaker Dr. Wes Shultz who discussed how to bring about behavioral change in hopes of increasing sustainability efforts. The topic of recycling was heavily discussed from a variety of different perspectives including Brenda Pulley of Keep America Beautiful who spoke on reusing, reducing, and recycling. Other recycling-based presentations included Refill Not Landfill by Tammy Millican, LSU; How to Make Your Case for School Recycling by Gretchen Vanicor, ULL and Amanda Waddle; Recycling at festivals by Greg Guidroz, Bayou Vermilion District; and Eco Green Events: Integrating Sustainability into Community Events and Planning by Valerie Longa, Alabama Coastal Foundation. The final session of the first day, focused on raising money to fund KLB projects, was presented by Mike Rogers of Keep America Beautiful. The evening closed with the Everyday Heroes Award Banquet, featuring keynote speaker Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. The conference continued the following day with an opening session by Alexandra Miller of Asakura Robinson who explained planning and tools for communities to cut down on vacancy and blight, as well as calculating the cost of blight by Cecile Caron of Keep America Beautiful. Litter was a primary focal point of the discussions during the second day of the conference with speakers such as Rick Moore, St. Tammany Parish Constable; Max Ciolino, No Waste Nola; and Susan Russell, Executive Director of Keep Louisiana Beautiful. First Lady Donna Edwards along with Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown and Octagon Media released Louisiana’s new anti-litter slogan “Love the boot, don’t pollute”. The new slogan will be featured as a bumper sticker on all state vehicles and will be available to the public for further exposure and promotion. 

The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff attended the conference as exhibitors providing information and materials to be used to educate the public on wetland and coastal restoration. Publications such as Partners in Restoration, Understanding CWPPRA, and Henri Heron’s Louisiana Wetlands were distributed in addition to numerous editions of WaterMarks and two of CWPPRA’s Protect Our Coast posters. 

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