Competitive Dominance

Ecosystems around the world are in a constant state of competition as inhabitants impact each other, whether directly or indirectly. The theory of competition deals with interactions between populations within a defined range or habitat. [1] Individuals with more beneficial adaptations are more “fit” and will often out-compete others for resources like food, territory, or sunlight. Today, we will look at how one species can become dominant over its competitors in wetlands and what conditions might disrupt or completely tear down dominant species.

Some of our readers may immediately think of monoculture farming as a sort of dominance, and they would be correct. Although it is through artificial selection, crop species present some trait that Homo sapiens deems worthy of cultivating. For example, huge swaths of land in the United States have been clear-cut to make room for corn farms, cattle ranches, or even sugar cane farms. Maybe not to the same degree as artificial selection, natural selection can also produce habitats with dominant plants and animals. Coastal Louisiana’s wetlands are great examples of this. From Cypress swamps to Spartina marshes, wetlands are home to some hardy species who have adapted to harsh and variable conditions.

Wetlands go through cycles of drought and flood conditions, which can prove fatal for many species. [2] Wetland plants have adapted to survive the cycles and even exploit them. Cypress trees are a useful example because they don’t necessarily need flooded conditions to grow, they just need space and a little bit of protection when they are young. [3] Instead of becoming competitive on dry land with the thousands of other obligate dry land trees, cypress ancestors developed the ability to survive in water where few other plants competed. More information about their adaptations can be found in our second post about flood stress tolerance. In the salt marshes along our coast, smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and other graminoids (grass-like species) dominate with their salt tolerance and fast reproduction. More about how cordgrass and black mangroves dominate other coastal species can be found in our first post about salt stress tolerance.

Within a species’ endemic (native) habitat, populations are limited by food availability, competition, and predation. However, species can move to non-native habitats that have plenty of food, less fit competitors, or little to no predation, in which case that species can become problematic. Invasive species are detrimental by definition and coastal Louisiana has several examples, which can be found in our invasive species article. Unfortunately, many invasive species move to new habitats with the help of humans, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose.

If you want to learn more about how human impact and other factors can change dominance structures, be on the lookout for Dominance pt. 2 next Wednesday!

[1] https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/species-interactions-and-competition-102131429

[2] https://www.worldwildlife.org/habitats/wetlands

[3] https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/treedetail.cfm?itemID=787

Featured Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/9428166@N03/2686432231

 

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Regional Planning Teams

This week, CWPPRA was scheduled to hear proposals for potential projects that will compete for funding in the upcoming fiscal year. FY19 is bound to have some fierce competitors, including some projects that may not have been awarded funding in previous years. In our Dec 12, 2018 post, we outlined a bit of the project selection process and we hope to see new and innovative ideas soon. At this time, the Regional Planning Team (RPT) meetings have been postponed following the government shutdown.

To reiterate the RPT process from the December 12th post, new projects are proposed annually across the coast. If any of our readers wish to propose a project this year, watch our newsflash for rescheduled meeting times in your region. Project proposals guidelines can be found on our Newsflash announcement. After each RPT meeting, the projects from each of CWPPRA’s 4 regions are compiled by RPT members and submitted to the next phase of competition. Each Parish and CWPPRA personnel submit a ranking of important projects, which helps the Technical Committee narrow down the list to 10 of the most promising projects. These 10 projects are further evaluated by CWPPRA working groups to look at environmental impact, engineering concepts, and other important aspects of each proposal, then the Technical Committee selects 4 to recommend to the Task Force for Phase I Engineering & Design.

In December 2018, the CWPPRA Technical Committee narrowed 10 potential Phase I projects down to 4 and the list for Phase II approval to 2 projects. The Task Force was scheduled to meet January 24th, 2019 to approve the recommended projects but, since the federal government was still partially closed, some of the critical task force representatives were unable to meet that day and so that meeting will be replaced with an electronic vote.

This latest government shutdown may have thrown a wrench into the CWPPRA process, our commitment to the coast is as strong as ever. We will continue to hear proposals, select projects, and work with our partners to construct projects that support the state of our coastline and all who live there. Watch for our Newsflash if you want to participate in our Project selection process; we look forward to helping you #ProtectOurCoast!

 

Featured image from https://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2016/05/03/science/isle-de-jean-charles-resettlement-plan.html

Looking Back

Former President George H.W. Bush signed Public Law 101-646, Title III CWPPRA into law in 1990 to combat the national issue of coastal land loss. Over 25 years after he left office and a week after the late President’s day of mourning, this legislation is still providing protection to billions of dollars’ worth of industry, major human settlements, and beautiful ecosystems.

At 28 years of projects and counting, CWPPRA is among the longest-standing federally-funded restoration ventures in the country, as well as one of the most successful. To date, 210 projects have been authorized across Louisiana’s coastal zone to restore 100,000+ acres of wetlands. Each year of operation, CWPPRA has approved funding on multiple projects scattered across our coast. The locations of our projects can be found at https://lacoast.gov/new/About/Basins.aspx.

CWPPRA projects are proposed by anyone and developed in conjunction with one of our 5 federal managing agencies and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The process of project selection is always a rigorous competition between candidate projects across Louisiana’s coast. Each proposal presents estimated ecological benefits, cost estimates, and a detailed plan for the desired project. At the beginning of each calendar year, Regional Planning Team meetings are held across the coast to hear proposals. The proposed projects are compiled into an annual Project Priority List (PPL). Upcoming proposal meetings can be found Jan 29-31, 2019 on our calendar at https://lacoast.gov/calendar/. Over the next year the CWPPRA Technical Committee and Task Force narrow the list of candidate projects. In December, the Technical Committee recommends their top 4 projects to the Task Force. The Task Force finally votes in January on the 4 projects they will fund for Phase I Engineering and Design. This annual cycle will complete its 28th round in late January 2019.

CWPPRA is excited about wrapping up PPL 28 next month and starting on PPL 29! Be on the lookout for announcements about projects chosen for funding at the January 24th Task Force meeting. We look forward to continuing our efforts to #ProtectOurCoast!

 

Featured image from https://projects.propublica.org/louisiana/

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, 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 remedy. 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/

Louisiana’s Live Oak Cheniers

With coastal needs continuing to grow, we can learn from nature’s history for ways to strengthen our coastlines. While we often think about how barrier islands protect the coast from storms, coastal cheniers and forests across Louisiana are also essential in providing that protection. These coastal forests are often found on shell ridges known as cheniers.

French for “place of oaks”, cheniers act as storm barriers, prevent saltwater intrusion, and provide wildlife habitat for migratory birds and butterflies [1,3]. Cheniers along  Louisiana’s coast extend from Cameron Parish in the west to Iberia Parish” [1]. Due to their higher relief, or height above sea level, a large majority of these areas were cleared for human development uses such as highways, agriculture, and oil and gas [2]. Louisiana originally hosted 100,000 to 500,000 acres of chenier, but today only 2,000 to 10,000 acres remain [1].

While these numbers can be discouraging, local and state efforts are in place to conserve live-oak (Quercus virginiana) cheniers and coastal forests.

Louisiana is fortunate to have programs and organizations like this to conserve the coast and its natural abundance. These practices along with landowner, volunteer and citizen engagement are essential to coastal restoration. You may visit CWPPRA’s website lacoast.gov to learn how you can help Louisiana’s coastal wetlands!

Do your part to conserve our environment and help Louisiana’s coast!

Source:
[1] Louisiana Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Date Accessed October 30, 2018. Available:http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/document/32867-coastal-live-oak-hackberry-forest/coastal_live_oak-hackberry_forest.pdf
[2] Army Corps of Engineers. Southwest Coastal Louisiana Final Integrated Draft and Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement. Date Accessed October 30, 2018. Available:http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/Portals/56/docs/PD/Projects/SWCoastal/11%20Appendix%20A%20Env%20Report.pdf
[3] Baton Rouge Audubon Society. Accessed on 10/31/2018. Available:http://www.braudubon.org/peveto-woods-sanctuary.php

Black Bayou Hydrologic Restoration (CS-27)

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The purposes of the Black Bayou Hydrologic Restoration
project are to (1) restore coastal marsh habitat, and (2) slow
the conversion of wetlands to shallow, open water in the
project area. The project limits the amount of saltwater
intrusion into the surrounding marsh and canals from the
GIWW and reduces erosion caused by wave action from
nearby boats and tides.

A 22,600-foot rock dike was placed on the southern spoil
bank of the GIWW. A barge bay weir (70-foot bottom
width) was constructed in Black Bayou Cutoff Canal. Weirs
with boat bays (10-foot bottom widths) were constructed in
Burton Canal and Block’s Creek. A collapsed weir was
plugged and replaced by a fixed crest steel sheet-pile weir
with a state-of-the-art, self-regulating tidegate. Spoil
material from weir installation and the dredging of access
routes was deposited in nearby open water areas to the
height of marsh elevations. The $3 million construction
contract included installation of 55,000 marsh plants over the
next two planting seasons.

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This project, sponsored by the National Marine Fisheries
Service and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources,
is a 25,529 acre wetland located in Cameron and Calcasieu
Parishes, Louisiana. Bordered by the Gulf Intracoastal
Waterway (GIWW), Sabine Lake, Black Bayou, and Gum
Cove Ridge, the project area consists of tidally-influenced
intermediate and brackish marshes.

Construction is completed. Installation of vegetative
plantings were completed in April 2002. The monitoring
plan was finalized in March 2000, and monitoring has
begun.

This project is on Priority Project List 6.

Federal Sponsor: NOAA 

Local Sponsor: CPRA

New Cut Dune and Marsh Creation (TE-37)

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* Problems:  New Cut was first formed in 1974 when the eastern end of Trinity Island was breached during Hurricane Carmen. This breach was further widened by Hurricane Juan in 1985 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. — The Isles Dernieres shoreline is one of the most rapidly deteriorating barrier shorelines in the U.S., exhibiting a pattern of fragmentation and disintegration.  — With regard to long shore sediment transport systems or the movement of beach material by waves and currents, the islands have ultimately become sources of sediment themselves leading to an ever-decreasing volume of sediment.

* Restoration Strategy: The purpose of this project was to close the breach between Trinity and East Islands through the direct creation of beach, dune, and marsh habitat. This project also lengthened the structural integrity of eastern Isles Dernieres by restoring the littoral drift by adding sediment into the nearshore system (restoring about 8,000 linear feet of barrier island).
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* Location: New Cut is the breach between East and Trinity Islands in the Isles Dernieres barrier  island chain. The cut is bordered on the north by Lake Pelto, on the west by Trinity Island, on the east by East Island and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
* Progress to Date: A rock dike and approximately 2 million cubic yards of dredged material reconstructed a dune and marsh platform to protect the shoreline from erosion and to restore interior marsh lost from subsidence and saltwater intrusion.
Phase 2 (construction) funding was initially approved at the January 2001 Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force meeting and additional funds allocated in 2006 to account for change in borrow site and post-hurricane increased construction costs. Dredging was completed July 2007. About 8,000 linear feet of barrier island was restored by placing approximately 850,000 cubic yards of material. New Cut was closed through the construction of a dune platform matching the dune elevations on the east and west, strengthening the connection between East and Trinity Islands. Nine species of native barrier island vegetation were planted along with over 17,000 linear feet of sand fencing. No maintenance is anticipated over the 20-year design life.
* This Project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 9.
* Federal Sponsor:
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  Dallas, TX
  (214) 664-6722
* Local Sponsor:
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