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.
During the month of May, we recognize and celebrate the various ways that wetlands enrich the environment and people. American Wetlands Month is a time to celebrate why wetlands are indispensable to the ecological, economic, and social health of our country. It is a full month to encourage both communities and individuals to actively participate in the planning, protection, and restoration of our wetlands. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partners with other federal and private partners in celebration of American Wetlands Month each May. These organizations schedule events throughout the month of May to engage those who are striving to better understand the value of wetlands to our country.
An entire month dedicated to American Wetlands speaks volumes on how valuable this natural resource is, although it is among the least understood. Wetlands help improve water quality and supply, reduce flooding, and provide critical habitat for plants, fish and wildlife. Government regulations and zoning restrictions are not enough to protect and restore wetlands alone. Americans must also participate in these efforts to save our wetlands.
History of American Wetlands Month
In 1991, American Wetlands Month was created in effort to celebrate the importance of wetlands and educate Americans about the value of this natural resource. A wide range of individuals with ties to wetlands participate in events and celebrations throughout the month of May to increase awareness of the benefits wetlands provide with hopes of inspiring people to work year-round to protect and expand our wetlands.
Explore Wetlands Around You!
Wetlands are present in all 50 states. It is likely that a wetland exists nearby for you to explore and increase your education during American Wetlands Month and throughout the year. Take some time to learn about wetlands and ways to protect the wetlands around you!
It’s never too early to start thinking about sustainability- that was the message embodied by participants at the Louisiana Green Schools Youth Summit on March 24 held at the Audubon Zoo. An event organized by the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission and the Louisiana USGBC Chapter, the summit brought together students in grades 5 through 12 to discuss green initiatives in their schools and learn about other aspects of sustainability. Staff from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act were there with information about the many different types of careers, including engineering, geology, and tourism, that contribute to coastal restoration efforts. CWPPRA staff also had #ProtectOurCoast posters and issues of WaterMarks for students. With almost 90 participants and exhibitors including Louisiana DEQ, Joule Energy, and The Green Project, the Youth Summit was an opportunity to look at how groups focusing on different aspects of sustainability, including CWPPRA’s wetland restoration projects, come together to create a better long-term future for Louisiana.
Water, promoter of all life forms on Earth, is recognized today- World Water Day! In Louisiana, 47% of the state’s population resides in the coastal zone, with a majority of livelihoods reliant on water. Industries such as aquaculture, agriculture, oil and gas, and tourism depend on the sustainability and quality of Louisiana’s waters. This essential natural resource has a synergistic relationship with Louisiana’s wetlands, providing vital nourishment to fisheries, wildlife, and Louisiana’s coastal growth. Wetlands improve water quality by trapping suspended solids and filtering other pollutants. Coastal marshes filter excess nitrogen and phosphorus, thus helping to prevent algal blooms and maintaining oxygen in the water for fish and shellfish. Wetlands can retain, remove, and transform nutrients that might otherwise contribute to declining water quality. Clean water is important for healthy fish, wildlife, and humans. Water is not only a commodity, but a contributor to life… appreciate it, preserve it, and protect it!
Water is the key to life, celebrate World Water Day!
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Environmental Education Association hosted the 20th Environmental Education State Symposium on February 3-4, 2017 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Baton Rouge, La. The theme of this year’s symposium was “protecting Louisiana’s endangered species.”
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) provides environmental education news from across Louisiana, including information on environmental education programs, workshops, and grant opportunities. The state symposium furnished opportunities for formal and non-formal environmental educators from Louisiana and surrounding states to meet and share teaching techniques as well as multiple concurrent sessions for various topics and grade levels. Keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center, used individual cases of endangered species to engage the audience in explorations of the process of science while cultivating environmental stewardship. In addition to the keynote speech, presenters in 15 concurrent sessions provided lesson demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and/or exemplary programs. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach Staff was among exhibitors with a multitude of materials to assist teachers of all grade levels in furthering their students’ knowledge in environmental education and coastal protection.
An estuary is an ecosystem comprised of both the biological and physical environment, commonly located where a river meets the sea. Estuaries are 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. One of the most expansive and productive estuaries in the world is located in the United States at the interface of the Mississippi River’s freshwater and the salt water from the Gulf of Mexico.
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 enjoyable recreational activities such as fishing. Continue your love for estuaries and contribute to their well-being by aiming to keep your estuary areas clean of trash and healthy environments for wildlife, vegetation, and others to enjoy!
Share the estuary love for Valentine’s Day! #iheartestuaries
World Wetlands Day is designated as a day to raise global awareness about the value and benefits of wetlands for both humanity and the planet; it is celebrated every February 2nd. Wetlands provide an immense number of benefits to not only the surrounding areas via protection, but also thriving aquaculture industries and commodities on both a national and international level. Healthy wetlands play a vital role in sustaining life and acting as natural safeguards in extreme weather events through disaster risk reduction.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act participated in the appreciation of wetlands by attending the World Wetlands Day Celebration on February 2nd, 2017 at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma, La. The South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center hosted its 8th annual celebration by inviting third grade students from St. Matthews Episcopal School and Honduras Elementary, as well as sixth grade students from St. Francis de Sales Catholic School, totaling 185 local students, to learn about different aspects of wetlands. The CWPPRA Public Outreach Staff informed students about the relevance of wetlands by drawing connections between four different yet familiar types of wetlands and seafood, previous hurricane activity in the region, industry jobs, and wetland functionality. In order to do so, the CWPPRA staff incorporated the Where the Wild Things Are game to teach the students about wetland habitats and the animals living in them. This game consisted of students matching different wetland bean bag animals to the correct habitat: swamp, marsh, barrier island, and ocean. Where the Wild Things Are provides an opportunity for students to understand the connections between different wetland environments, recognize the adaptability of some animals to more than one habitat, and identify specific characteristics of each habitat, such as vegetation.