Many animals and a few plants are adaptable to changing conditions in their habitats, which is a vital ability in dynamic landscapes such as wetlands. With seasonal flooding, temperature shifts, storm pressure, nutrient availability, species density and variation, and many other factors, many species are adaptable to changes that are predictable. Unfortunately, there are man-made and natural changes that may disrupt entire ecosystems by destabilizing one “keystone species” or by changing a crucial abiotic factor such as salinity. In coastal restoration, groups like CWPPRA ensure that they are not causing a sudden shift in any ecosystem in which they are working. CWPPRA projects must abide by the results of an Environmental Impact Survey (EIS) to ensure that the proposed project is not going to disrupt key processes including reproductive cycles, migration, or nutrient replenishment.
Freshwater diversion projects are a hot topic on the restoration circuit these days, because although they seek to restore land that has been lost or save areas that are degrading, there are key stakeholders, such as oystermen, who have moved into and now rely on these now-open waters for their livelihood. Restoration groups conduct an EIS for each project to understand the impact of a project for Louisiana’s working people as well as ecosystems.
Coastal Restoration is a complex issue with many intertwined components. Ecosystems are fairly resilient, but they are threatened by large-scale, sudden changes. Storms can increase salinity in freshwater wetlands, which causes many plants and animals to die. Freshwater wetlands are constantly under pressure at their fringes because our coastal zone is moving further and further inland. This shrinkage allows more salinity influence in areas that, historically, were safe behind their salt marshes that are now deteriorating or already lost.
Restoring the coast can’t happen soon enough for the people and other animals that live there, as well as plants and even people who live outside of Louisiana. A recent state poll demonstrates that over half of Louisiana’s residents recognize that coastal land loss will directly impact them this year, and that number jumps to over 75% expecting to be impacted in the next ten years. It is clear that the concern for our rapidly disappearing coast is gaining ground, and CWPPRA stands ready to restore, rebuild and maintain Louisiana’s wetlands for the near-term and the future.