EcoSTEAM Summer Camp

Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Project Front Yard hosts five weeks of a summer camp focused on environmental issues and STEAM activities. Eco-STEAM began June 17 and CWPPRA joined campers June 24 through 28. Our Wetland Warriors program included three days of wetland-based activities, outlining important adaptations that help plants and animal species with survival in the dynamic coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

We began on Monday with Wetland Jeopardy because it leads into discussion about wetland ecosystem services and children enjoy the friendly competition. The next day, we focused more specifically on wetland plants and their importance to overall ecosystem health. The Girard Park pond was helpful to discuss adaptations like the bald cypress. Our last day centered on wetland animals, mostly birds, and some of their adaptation for wetlands habitats. Birds are an excellent teaching tool because some can swim, walk, and fly, and beak variability can have some serious implications on species distribution. The campers enjoyed the beak variability activity, which challenged them to use a spoon, a fork, a straw and a toothpick to pick up various shaped snacks like gummy worms, sunflower seeds, goldfish crackers, and mini M&Ms. Our week of wetland instruction concluded with a field trip to Lafayette’s Acadiana Park Nature Station.

This was the Eco-STEAM’s second year and CWPPRA was thrilled to be included again, alongside great community partners including local IT giant CGI, UL Lafayette’s Hilliard Art Museum, the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood Coterie, and Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Office of Community Development, Parks and Recreation Department, and Recycling Division. This program is offered as an affordable summer option for area kindergarten through eighth grade students and we interacted with just over 100 eager new “Wetland Warriors.”

 

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West Belle Pass Barrier Headland Restoration (TE-52)

wordpress fact sheet banner TE-52-01.pngThis headland experiences some of the highest shoreline retreat rates in the nation, measuring over 100 feet a year in some locations. As the gulf encroaches upon the shoreline, sand is removed and the headland erodes. What was once a continuous shoreline spanning several miles has been reduced to less than half its original length. Furthermore, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita removed most of the emergent headland and dunes west of the pass. This headland helps provide protection to interior marshes and the Port Fourchon area; however, its continued degradation threatens the fragile bay habitat and infrastructure it once protected.

This project will reestablish the West Belle headland by rebuilding a large portion of the beach, dune, and back barrier marsh that once existed. Approximately 9,800 feet of beach and dune will be rebuilt using nearly 2.8 million cubic yards of dredged sand, and 150 acres of marsh habitat will be rebuilt using nearly 1.4 million cubic yards of dredged material. Native vegetation will be planted upon construction to help stabilize the rebuilt marsh and dune habitat.

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The project is located along the Chenier Caminada headland to the west of West Belle Pass, at the southeastern edge of Timbalier Bay in Lafourche Parish, Lousiana.

This project was approved for engineering and design in October 2006. Construction funds were approved by the Task Force in late 2009, construction began fall 2011, and construction was completed in October 2012.

This project is on Priority Project List 16.

Federal Sponsor: NOAA NMFS

Local Sponsor: CPRA

Moving Forward: The Louisiana Fishing Industry

Fishing has been a part of Louisiana life since the earliest inhabitants settled the area. Settlers hunted and fished in the abundant water bodies of Louisiana for survival. – In today’s society, Louisiana fisheries have evolved into powerhouse contributors to the economic well-being of the state of Louisiana and the nation.

The commercialization of Louisiana’s fishing industry occurred during the antebellum era between 1812 and 1860 as New Orleans became one North America’s boom towns [2]. Today, Louisiana fisheries are just as important to the people and state. Thanks to federal, state, and local programs, Louisiana’s traditional fishermen still have the ability to provide quality seafood and recreation.

Today, Louisiana fisheries are just as important to the people and state as it was then. Thanks to federal, state, and localized programs Louisiana traditional fisherman still have the ability to provide quality seafood and recreation.

Quick Facts about the Louisiana Seafood Industry [3]:

  • The second-largest seafood supplier in the United States
  • 1 out of 70 Louisiana jobs are related to the seafood industry
  • One third of all the seafood consumed in the U.S. is from Louisiana
  • Shrimp accounts for $1.3 Billion for Louisiana
  • Oyster fishing accounts for $317 Million annually
  • Crab accounts for $293 Million annually
  • Crawfish accounts for $120 Million annually
  • Estimated economic impact of $2.4 Billion annually

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Almost 70 percent of the seafood harvested off the Gulf Coast is consumed by Louisianans. Today, Louisiana has numerous programs that help keep the seafood industry successful, sustainable, and environmentally-minded. Programs like Louisiana Fisheries Forward, funded by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries and Sea Grant, provide guidance for Louisiana fishermen, harvesters, docks, and processors [3]. Their website provides access to a digital library on best practices in the commercial fishing industry (videos, regulation guidelines, safety, responsible fishing, sustainability and business basics). Another program, the Lafourche-Terrebonne Direct Seafood Program was launched to help increase fishermen income and support social interactions with the public. Funded by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, the program assists locals and visitors in purchasing fresh local seafood directly from the fishers online or with a smart phone [4].

Research by university scientists and fisheries resource managers focuses on the challenging issues affecting our coast and fisheries [3]. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana Sea Grant apply specific research initiatives to support sustainable and healthy practices to the fishing industry. For example, current research on finding a sulfite-free alternative that effectively treats black spot in shrimp will allow dealers and processors to use ‘chem-free’ labeling [3].

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Black-spot in shrimp is a harmless discoloration in shrimp caused by a system of enzymes that are naturally present in shrimp [1]. This discoloration can increase when exposed to air for too long, and deters consumers from purchasing shrimp as their color darkens [1]. Traditionally, sodium sulfites were used in preventing black spot in shrimp ,but its known now that a small population of people are allergic to sodium sulfites [1]. Research by the Louisiana Sea Grant & LSU AgCenter provides an alternative enzyme-based product to prevent black spot in shrimp. This alternative increases the marketing ability for fisheries and safety for those allergic to sulfites [1].

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Advanced mapping systems by zone and seafood type can be pulled from the  Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries website and sorted by recreational and commercial fishing.

The CWPPRA Watermarks Issue #55 notes,  “For over 50 years, almost every document addressing Louisiana’s land loss, mentions ‘wetlands and the fish dependent thereon” [5]. CWPPRA uses a Wetland Value Assessment (WVA) to determine quality and quantity of fish and wildlife habitat. Together, groups like the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries along with CWPPRA are working together to restore coastal Louisiana where people and wildlife  have lived for generations.

 

Continue reading “Moving Forward: The Louisiana Fishing Industry”

UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre

What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with jambalaya, Cajun music, and conservation? That is how the CWPPRA outreach team and many other organizations spent last Friday, April 20th, at the UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre Expo. The expo showcased many wonderful local groups including, but not limited to, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the TECHE Project, and the Bayou Vermilion District, all hosted by the ULL Office of Sustainability.

Students visiting the expo could learn about how long it takes for different types of litter to decompose naturally, how solar panels are used to generate power, and whether or not to recycle different waste products. During their visit, they could grab free jambalaya, listen to the Cajun jam session, or decorate their very own reusable grocery bag. There are so many resources that help our community celebrate conservation, and the expo was a beautiful day for getting ULL students and faculty involved, interested, and informed.

 

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Stress Part II: Flooding and Hypoxia

Wetland inhabitants must also deal with flooding stress. All parts of a plant must have oxygen, which causes problems when a plant is rooted in hypoxic soils and it is flooded. Gases diffuse about 10,000 times more slowly through water than through air, and wetland soils are often inundated and hypoxic. This poses an issue for supplying roots with enough oxygen since they don’t have any around them. Some root systems will have adventitious roots, which means they extend above the surface of the water or soil to allow gas exchange with the atmosphere.[1] Red mangroves have prop roots, black mangroves have pneumatophores, and both supply oxygen directly to the root system rather than relying on transport all the way from the leaves to the roots.[2]

Hypoxia can be caused by eutrophication and decomposition. Hypoxia and anoxia are dangerous to most plants and animals because most cannot live only with anaerobic (without oxygen) respiration. Bacteria can sometimes live in anoxic conditions by using different electron receptors that are more plentiful in wetland soils like sulfates. Plants can sometimes cope with hypoxia thanks to adaptations like aerenchyma development in their roots. Aerenchymous tissues are much more porous to allow gases to diffuse up to 30 times more easily through a plant! In animals, lungs can allow some fish, mammals, and aquatic gastropods (snails) to live in hypoxic waters, but many fish have gills that are not adapted to hypoxia. The Gulf of Mexico along Louisiana’s coast boasts one of the largest hypoxic zones in the world with a peak area of over 8,500 square miles in 2017, where many commercial fisheries have seen a large decline in fish catch. [3]

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Photo from NOAA, Dead Zone 2017

Works Cited:

[1] Gilman, Sharon. “Plant Adaptations.” ci.coastal.edu/~sgilman/778Plants.htm.

[2] “Adaptations.” Adaptations :: Florida Museum of Natural History, http://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/southflorida/habitats/mangroves/adaptations/.

[3] “Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ Is the Largest Ever Measured.” Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ Is the Largest Ever Measured | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, web.archive.org/web/20170802173757/http:/www.noaa.gov/media-release/gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-is-largest-ever-measured.

Featured image is of Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove) from Flickr by barloventomagico

Mangroves in Winter

The recent cold weather in Louisiana may have been the end of the road for some plants as temperatures dipped into the teens and stayed below freezing for full days. The hibiscus in your garden may have survived because you gave it extra insulation, but what about marsh plants? Louisiana salt marshes are home to black mangroves (Avicennia germinans), but this represents the very northernmost part of their range. Of the three mangrove species found in the continental United States [red (Rhizophora mangle), black, and white (Laguncularia racemosa)], black mangroves are the most cold-hardy, but they are still sensitive to winter weather- they generally cannot establish above 28° N and S latitude because winters are too cold (a sliver of the Birdsfoot Delta is below 29° N, so we really are at their limit).

The three mangrove species are also different in their tolerances for other environmental conditions: red mangroves establish in the intertidal zone, while black and white mangroves are found at higher elevations, and white mangroves can colonize areas with little to no soil. In Florida where all three species occur, mangrove zones can be defined from the water extending inland and up in elevation .

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Red mangroves are found in the intertidal zone, while black and white mangroves establish at higher elevations. Graphic from the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida (https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/southflorida/habitats/mangroves/zonation/)

Black mangroves are an important component of Louisiana salt marshes, providing habitat to a variety of species. The complex root systems trap and collect sediment, limiting erosion and maintaining land. Juvenile invertebrates and fish find shelter among the roots, while seabird chicks, such as brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills, are protected from high water events and predators up in the branches.

CWPPRA projects that nourish barrier islands and create new marsh habitat help maintain black mangrove populations by providing new land for the plants to colonize; in turn, the mangroves help the new land persist in the face of wind and wave energy.

Wetland Soils

World Soil Day was officially celebrated on December 5th. This day was created in an effort to share the importance of healthy soil and advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources. Wetland soils, also known as hydric soils, are permanently or seasonally saturated by water and develop anaerobic conditions. Soils’ ability to store surface or ground water and bio-geochemical processes are critical to wetland function and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Wetland scientists spend a great deal of their time performing soil surveys. Different wetland types feature different soil types. Soils should be evaluated for the presence of pesticides or dangerous elements that could cause damage to the vegetation and animals of that wetland site.

This day was created in an effort to focus on the importance of soil as a critical component of natural systems and as a vital contributor to human well-being.

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Interesting fact:

  • 95% of our food comes from the soil