National Invasive Species Awareness Week
Invasive species (harmful non-native species) are one of the most significant drivers of global change. Consequently, they can have substantial impacts on the economy, infrastructure, and humans. Society must address invasive species as a priority, which is exactly what National Invasive Species Awareness Week intends to do. The objective of National Invasive Species Awareness Week is to bring attention to the impacts, prevention, and management of invasive species – and all those who are working toward healthy, biodiverse ecosystems.
Wetlands provide benefits ranging from water filtration to storm surge protection; however, wetlands have become vulnerable to invasive species. Known as major contributors to wetland and coastal habitat loss, invasive species also threaten native species, including endangered species that rely exclusively on the wetlands for survival. The foreign animals that have been recognized as invasive to coastal wetlands include Asian carp, wild boar, island apple snails, and nutria. Invasive plant species include Chinese tallow, common reed, and purple loosestrife. Invasive animal and plant species have altered the health of wetlands by out-competing native species for food and natural resources, often without any natural predator or control to halt the resulting aggressive spread through an area. CWPPRA strives to protect wetlands by constructing methods to diminish the invasive threat and restore native species’ dominance and health within the wetlands.
For a full list of Invasive species in Louisiana, click here.
CWPPRA continues to raise awareness and identify solutions to protect our wetlands by implementing projects to target invasive wetland species such as the Coastwide Nutria Control Program and Louisiana Salvinia Weevil Propagation Facility.
Did you know:
There are about 17,000 known threatened species in the world.
Louisiana’s wetlands are a complex, fragile ecosystem of flora, fauna, and water. The swamps, marshes and bayous of Louisiana represent approximately 40% of all the wetlands in the United States. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, in addition to pollution and other anthropogenic activities threaten the health of Louisiana’s wetlands and its inhabitants. Some of the threatened species in Louisiana include Atlantic Sturgeon, Northern Long-Eared Bat, Piping Plover, Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Red Knot, Louisiana Pearlshell Mussel, Alabama Heelsplitter Mussel, Earth Fruit, Ringed Map Turtle, and Gopher Tortoise. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act has protected, created, or restored 95,806 aces, while also enhanced more than 351,676 acres. CWPPRA plans to continue working to help coastal wetlands and their inhabitants.
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Plants of the wetlands are generally known to be highly dependent upon specific conditions, such as salinity, proximity to water, and vegetation type.
While some plants are able to adapt to condition alterations, other species do not overcome change as well. However, a major threat to all wetland vegetation is hydrilla.
Hydrilla is a non-native, invasive aquatic plant that has staked its claim by out-competing native plants and obstructing waterways. Hydrilla is a submerged, perennial plant that prefers freshwater, but can tolerate up to 7% salinity. This aggressive plant is known for clogging waterways, impeding natural flow, affecting human use such as fishing and seafood harvest, and clogging intakes and municipal drinking water supplies. Hydrilla can take over an area quickly as a result of its ability to multiply rapidly using four different strategies. Regrowth of stem fragments containing at least one node into a new plant, tubers on rhizomes producing new tubers, leaf turions that settle into sediment and form a new plant, and seed dispersal are all methods of reproduction for hydrilla. Hydrilla can out-compete native plants by its ability to tolerate low and high nutrient conditions in addition to growing in low light environments. Hydrilla is also successful in out-competing other plants by growing at a rate of one inch per day until reaching the water’s surface, followed by branching out to form a mat of vegetation which blocks light to other plants.
In order to control the growth of hydrilla, salvinia weevils have been released into severely affected areas. The salvinia weevil lives exclusively on hydrilla as a food source, thus reducing growth rates to allow control of the plant. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act is currently researching the best, most beneficial method of controlling and eradicating invasive plant species.
Did you know:
CWPPRA has protected, created, or restored approximately 96,806 acres of wetlands in Louisiana.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act has funded coastal restoration projects for 26 years. Presently, CWPPRA has 153 total active projects, 108 completed projects, 17 active construction projects, 23 projects currently in Engineering and Design and has enhanced more than 355,647 acres of wetlands . These projects provide for the long-term conservation of wetlands and dependent fish and wildlife populations. Projects funded by CWPPRA are cost-effective ways of restoring, protecting, and enhancing coastal wetlands. CWPPRA has a proven track record of superior coastal restoration science and monitoring technique in Louisiana. The success of the CWPPRA program has been essential in providing critical ecosystem stabilization along Louisiana’s coast and has provided pioneering solutions for land loss.
Visit CWPPRA’s website for more information!
In honor of National Estuaries Week, this week’s Wetland Wednesday focuses on
An estuary is an ecosystem comprised of both the biological and physical environment, commonly located where a river meets the sea. Estuaries are known to be inhabited by an array of plant and animal species that have adapted to brackish water—a mixture between freshwater draining from inland and salt water. Estuaries have one of the highest productivity rates among ecosystems in the world; they provide an abundance of food and shelter as well as breeding and migration locations. Estuaries also provide great access for successful recreational activities such as fishing. Celebrate National Estuaries Week by aiming to keep your estuary areas clean of trash for others to enjoy as well as a healthy environment for wildlife and vegetation!
Can you tell the difference between a male and female blue crab?
Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina all share the title of largest blue crab fisheries in the world; Louisiana accounts for over half of all commercial harvest landings in the Gulf of Mexico. While the commercial harvest of the blue crab continues to rise, recreational crabbing popularity is also on a steady climb. Why? Blue crabs spend the majority of their late juvenile and adulthood in estuaries which are often closely located to an accessible shoreline, making blue crabs a delicious challenge to catch. Whether the blue crab is caught commercially or by recreation, there are two distinct methods to sex a blue crab.
Located on the underside of the crab’s carapace is the abdomen which forms a different shape depending upon the gender of the crab. Females have a broad and rounded abdomen while the male abdomen resembles a narrow t-shape. Another distinguishable characteristic are the red tips of the female’s claws. The blue crab is one of the many aquatic species that rely heavily upon the safety and health of wetlands for survival.
Found at the interfaces of land formations and water, smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is an herbaceous, native grass that densely inhabits shorelines. Compact, vegetative smooth cordgrass colonies grow along shorelines and inter-tidal flats of coastal wetlands such as canal banks, levees, marshes, barrier islands, and other regions of soil-water interface. This grass is highly adaptable to a variation of water depths and salinity levels making it a resilient species heavily used for coastal restoration. With an extensive rhizome system, smooth cordgrass is also highly effective as a soil stabilizer for loose soils, contributing to anchorage of the plants and sediment, as well as decrease of erosion effects. Smooth cordgrass acts as a natural buffer which dissipates energy of storm surge and wind impact to interior lands.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act frequently uses smooth cordgrass plugs during vegetative plantings due to the plant’s insensitivity to water and salinity levels, and its success in significant erosion protection to shorelines.
Wetlands are natural ecosystems that provide an abundance of wealth to not only it’s inhabitants, but also to surrounding communities. Wetlands provide benefits ranging from water filtration to storm surge protection; however, wetlands have become vulnerable to invasive species. Invasive species are plants, animals, or pathogens that are non-native to the ecosystem and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause damage. Known as major contributors to wetland and coastal habitat loss, invasive species also threaten native species, as well as endangered species who rely exclusively on the wetlands for survival.
The foreign animals that have been recognized as invasive to coastal wetlands include Asian carp, wild boar, island applesnails, and nutria. The invasive plant species include Chinese tallow, common reed, and purple loosestrife. Invasive animal and plant species have altered the health of wetlands in some way; CWPPRA strives to protect the wetlands by constructing methods to diminish the invasive threat and restore native species dominance and health within the wetlands.
Did you know:
Louisiana ranks 18th in species diversity within the United States with 3,495 species.
Species diversity includes the number of different native species in a community—also known as species richness—and the abundance of the species, referred to as species evenness. Species diversity gives a general measure of biological wealth to a given community. Louisiana harbors much of its diversity along the coast from prairies, swamps, marshes, and barrier islands. Many of our nation’s industries rely on the functionality of and species that reside within the wetlands. Furthermore, the wetlands of Louisiana are critical to protected species of lesser abundance, such as the whooping crane, piping plover, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and our nation’s symbol—the bald eagle.
Louisiana’s coastal landscape is known to contain vast beauty and uniqueness commonly seen through native Louisiana species, one being the Louisiana iris. Five of the many Louisiana native iris species gained the title of “Louisianans” due to Louisiana being the only location where they all occur together, with ranges along the Gulf Coast from Mississippi to Texas. The five “Louisianans” include: Iris brevicaulis, Iris fulva, Iris giganticaerulea, Iris hexagona and Iris nelsonii. The Louisiana iris is designated as the state wildflower.
The beautiful “Louisianans” can be found flourishing in damp or wet regions of freshwater and are commonly found in swamps, bogs, or on the banks of roadside ditches. Having little salt tolerance, the Louisiana iris is at risk of salt intrusion into its freshwater habitats. In order to protect the natural vegetation of our wetlands, CWPPRA is working to protect our coast by restoring the appropriate hydrology and salinity of affected regions.