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.

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.

LaBranche Central Marsh Creation


Dredging of access/flotation canals for construction of I-10 resulted in increased salinity & altered hydrology that exacerbated conversion of wetland vegetation into shallow open water bodies. Land loss is estimated to be -0.543 percent/year based on USGS data from 1984 to 2011 within the extended project boundary.

The primary goal is to restore marsh that converted to shallow open water. Project implementation will result in an increase of fisheries and wildlife habitat, acreage, and diversity along with improving water quality. The proposed project will provide a protective wetland buffer to the railroad and I-10, the region’s primary westward hurricane evacuation route, and complement hurricane protection measures in the area.

The proposed solution consists of the creation of 762 acres of emergent wetlands and the nourishment of 140 acres of existing wetlands using dedicated dredging from Lake Pontchartrain. The marsh creation area will have a target elevation the same as average healthy marsh. It is proposed to place the dredge material in the target area with the use of retention dikes along the edge of the project area. If degradation of the containment dikes has not occurred naturally by Target Year 3, gapping of the dikes will be mechanically performed. Successful wetland restoration in the immediate area (PO-17 constructed in 1994) clearly demonstrates the ability for these wetlands to be restored using material from a sustainable borrow area (outlet end of Bonnet Carre Spillway). Engineering monitoring surveys of the marsh creation area and borrow area are planned as well.


This project is located in the Pontchartrain Basin (Region 1), St. Charles Parish. It is bounded to the north by the railroad running parallel to I-10, to the west by the marsh fringe just east of Bayou LaBranche, to the south by Bayou Traverse and to the east by marsh fringe west of a pipeline canal.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 21.

The LaBranche Central Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

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 ( 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 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


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.

Oyster Bayou Marsh Creation


Altered hydrology, drought stress, saltwater intrusion and hurricane induced wetland losses have caused the area to undergo interior marsh breakup. Recent impacts from Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008 have resulted in the coalescence of Oyster Lake with interior water bodies increasing wave/wake related erosion. Based on USGS hyper temporal data analysis (1984 to 2011), land loss for the area is -0.75% per year. The subsidence rate is estimated at 0.0 to1.0 ft per century (Coast 2050, Mud Lake mapping unit).

The project boundary encompasses 809 acres. Specific goals of the project are: 1) create 510 acres of saline marsh in recently formed shallow open water; 2) nourish 90 acres of existing saline marsh; 3) create 17,500 linear feet of terraces; and, 4) reduce wave/wake erosion.

Approximately 510 acres of marsh would be created and 90 acres would be nourished. Sediment needed for the fill would be mined approximately one and a half miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Half of the created acres would be planted. Tidal creeks and ponds would be constructed prior to placement of dredged material and retention levees would be gapped to support estuarine fisheries access to achieve a functional marsh. Approximately 17,500 linear feet of earthen terraces would be constructed and planted.


This project is in Region 4, Calcasieu-Sabine Basin, located west of the Calcasieu Ship Channel and south of the west fork of the Calcasieu River.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 21.

The Oyster Bayou Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.


Environmental Education

In honor of National Environmental Education week, this week’s Wetland Wednesday highlights the

Louisiana Environmental Education Commission

The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) is a primary resource for all educators and citizens in furthering their environmental knowledge and awareness. The mission of the LEEC is to create a comprehensive and balanced environmental education initiative that results in environmentally literate citizens who effectively and constructively solve existing environmental problems, prevent new ones, and maintain a sustainable environment for future generations.

Throughout the year, the LEEC provides many opportunities for both students and teachers to participate in environmental education activities:
Environmental Education Symposium: This annual two day conference includes workshops, concurrent sessions, exhibits, and keynote speaker on formal and informal environmental science education. This professional development opportunity for educators stimulates new classroom ideas and techniques, provides an opportunity for educators to network, and provides additional information on other professional development and classroom opportunities. Lodging assistance is awarded to applicable educators in order to help offset the cost of attendance. The LEEC partners with the Louisiana Environmental Education Association (LEEA) to plan & develop this symposium. – February

Educator / Professional Development / Research / Green Schools Grants Program: Teachers, university students, and informal educators can apply for competitive mini-grants ranging from $1000 to $5000 for a total of approximately $50,000 in awarded funds.  Grants that are funded are based on sound scientific principles, have an environmental focus, and impact Louisiana students, educators, or Louisiana issues. Recipients are invited to present their ideas/findings at the Environmental Education Symposium. – March/April

Green Schools Program: The LEEC and the Louisiana Department of Education have an MOU in place to partner on promoting green initiatives in K-16 schools/universities, complementing the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Green Ribbon Schools initiatives. LDWF staff actively works with schools and universities around the state to encourage and offer guidance on the implementation of these ED pillars: (1) reduce environmental impacts and costs, (2) improve health and wellness, and (3) provide effective environmental and sustainability education. – ongoing

Art and Language Arts Contest: This K-12 student contest focuses on an environmental theme which is chosen annually by the LEEC. Information and applications are disseminated throughout school systems, home schools, and informal education venues. An awards ceremony honoring the winners, their families, and their teachers is held at the Governor’s Mansion in June. The winning entries are used to produce a calendar for the following year, which is distributed throughout the state.  – January thru June

Workshops: The LEEC periodically hosts professional development workshops for environmental educators. To be offered in summer 2017 is Watershed Webs, which is a 4-day workshop for teachers of students in grades 5-12. It focuses on the dynamics of watersheds, water quality, trash, and our new WET tracker app. Teachers in the coastal parishes/counties of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas are eligible to participate. The Watershed Webs workshop series is funded through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration B-WET grant.


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.

TV-12 Little Vermilion Bay Sediment Trapping