Louisiana’s Defense Systems: Wetlands and the Case of the Great Wall of Louisiana

In 2013 the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) completed construction of the “Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lake Borgne Surge Barrier”. The project is funded through the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) for southeast Louisiana and considered to be the largest civil works project in corps history. The barrier was built to combat storm surge heights like those observed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More commonly known as the Great Wall of Louisiana, engineering innovations like a 1000 foot trestle allowed the project to be completed in about 3 years’ time instead of an estimated 20. The barrier wall is 1.8 miles in distance, 26 feet tall, and at an estimated construction cost of $1.1 billion federally funded dollars.

Louisiana contains 40 percent of the continental United States’ wetland acreage. Coastal wetlands can protect against storm surge energy and flooding by marsh grasses, trees, and soil working as as system. However Louisiana continues to lose wetlands due to problems like subsidence, sea-level rise, sediment deprivation, oil and gas development, and climate change. With an extreme need of wetland preservation, coastal agencies like CWPPRA and USACE are strategizing to combat these issues.

USACE is one of the five managing agencies of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act. CWPPRA’s mission is to fund, plan, design, and construct restoration projects in coastal Louisiana at a large and fast pace scale. CWPPRA projects are synergistically funded through partner programs, such as the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Borgne Surge Barrier to protect, preserve, and restore Louisiana’s coast.

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Soil Biology

Soil biology may be considered the most important component of soil health and production [1]. Soil food web’s have tiny, microscopic organisms; also known as microorganisms. These living creatures may be tiny, but they live as very large populations in the soil, and other natural environments like water, air, and plants roots.

Soil_Food_Web

The Four Main Microorganism Groups of Soil:

  1. Soil Bacteria (mostly decomposers) [2].
  2. Soil Fungi
  3. Soil Protozoa (feed mostly on bacteria) [4].
  4. Soil Nematodes (feed on plants, bacteria, fungi, and/or other nematodes) [5].

The other two main groups of Soil Biology:

  1. Soil Arthropods (have no backbone) [6].
  2. Soil Earthworms

Soil Organisms

Microorganisms help bind soil together, which helps clean the soil and hold water for plant life. In ecosystems like wetlands, diverse communities of bacteria can help plants fight off harmful diseases. A major benefit of soil microorganisms is the decomposition of dead plant and animal life, along with the breakdown and creation of nutrients.

Advantages of Soil Organisms: [1, 10].

  • Create healthy nutrients for plants
  • Improve Soil Health and quality (nutrient rich, water holding capacity)
  • Fight off diseases for plants
  • Degrade human-caused pollutants (fertilizers, pesticides used in agriculture)
  • Benefit the food-web as a whole
  • Improve plant health and longevity
  • Microbiomes transform dead plant materials into soil organic matter

The living organisms of the soil provide the requirements needed to support plant, animal, and human life. You can support healthy microorganism communities in soil by: 

  • decreasing or preventing plowing and tilling in garden and agriculture fields [9].
  • plant cover crops to reduce soil erosion and funnel carbon into the atmosphere [9].
  • conserving microbes that provide biomass to plants
  • incorporate soil health management systems into your daily practices [10]
  • protect the soil from weather applying mulch / and or cover crops
  • proper composting

Interesting Facts draft2

Work Cited:
[1] Effective Microorganisms of New Zealand, https://www.emnz.com/article/soil-health-series-soil-microbes
[2] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Bacteria”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053862
[3] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Food Web & Soil Health”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053865
[4] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Protozoa”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053867
[5] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Nematodes”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053866
[6] Moldenke, Andrew R. “Soil Arthropods”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053861
[7] Pollard, Peter. (27 March 2018) "Microbes and the Missing Carbon Dioxide". Tedx Noosa, [Video File], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48UtbgtFKTg 
[8] USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service “Soil Food Web”. 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/health/biology/ 
[9] Wallenstein, Matthew. "To Restore Our Soils, Feed The Microbes". The Conservation, 27 March 2018, https://theconversation.com/to-restore-our-soils-feed-the-microbes-79616
[10] Zimmerman, Chuck. "General Mills Backing Soil Health Program". Ag-Wired, 27 March 2018, http://agwired.com/2017/04/26/general-mills-backing-soil-health-program/
[11] Pollard, Peter. (27 March 2018) "Microbes and the Missing Carbon Dioxide". Tedx Noosa, [Video File], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48UtbgtFKTg

 

Family Adventures in Wetland Science

Families in the Lafayette area spent Saturday, March 10 exploring their community and trying a range of activities as part of Family Adventure Day in support of Healing House and the local non-profit’s work with grieving children.  Outreach staff from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act collaborated with members of US Fish & Wildlife, NOAA, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, Acadiana Nature Station, and other groups to provide information and fun for the families who stopped by the Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center. Participants could hold juvenile alligators, make buttons and magnets, learn about local pollinators, and take part in other activities.

CWPPRA staff helped children think about the importance of different types of wetlands while matching native species to the correct habitat. Families could also get Henri Heron Activity Books and Protect Our Coast posters. A general theme of the activities offered at the Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center was citizen science, and participants learned how to use binoculars, identify birds and bird calls, and about a variety of on-line and app resources for identifying and recording what they see in their own backyards. These data can then be used by scientists to look at where certain species are, how those populations are doing, and when seasonal events like migration occur. Hopefully finding more ways to interact with the species and habitats outside will lead to more family adventures.0310180947a

Wetland Wonders at Ocean Commotion

Can you figure out the mystery coastal item based on the following clues? It contains a bivalve that a) makes pearls, b) is a filter feeder, and c) we eat here in Louisiana.

Over 1600 elementary and middle school students had the chance to read those clues at LSU Sea Grant’s Ocean Commotion on October 24 in Baton Rouge. Students, teachers, and chaperones then reached their hands into a box and tried to identify the item (oyster shell) they were holding. Other mystery items included a nutria pelt, cypress knees, an apple snail shell, and a magnolia seed pod- all from plants and animals that call Louisiana’s coastal wetlands home.

2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of Ocean Commotion, an annual event meant to give students the chance to get up close and personal with coastal and sea life and the challenges facing those environments. This year 70 exhibitors taught students about topics as diverse as boating safety, mosquito control, and microplastics. CWPPRA outreach staff talked with students about the diversity of species found in Louisiana’s wetlands and the challenges of invasive species, giving students an opportunity to think about how different species impact ecosystems in different ways.

 

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

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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.

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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.