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.

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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

 

Learning about Wetlands and Dining on Invasive Species

On November 18th, residents and visitors in St. Bernard Parish were treated to live music, cooking demonstrations, and the chance to sample wild boar recipes prepared by teams vying for bragging rights. Hosted by the Coastal Division of St. Bernard Parish, the first Cook-Off for the Coast was held at Docville Farm in Violet, Louisiana with proceeds benefiting the St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation. In addition to evaluating the food of the six competing teams, visitors watched local celebrity chefs prepare everything from gumbo to snapping turtle and talked with a range of coastal organizations about the importance of protecting southeast Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

Sinead Borchert and Mirka Zapletal from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Outreach Office were in attendance with information about restoration projects in St. Bernard Parish, activity books, posters from the #ProtectOurCoast series, and recent issues of WaterMarks magazine. They also invited children and adults alike to match Louisiana wildlife with the correct wetland habitat. St. Bernard’s coast is vulnerable to storms, subsidence, erosion, and invasive species, putting wildlife habitat and coastal communities at risk. CWPPRA projects work to support Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and the people and wildlife that depend on these habitats.

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America Recycles Day

     Today we celebrate America Recycles Day: a national initiative of Keep America Beautiful. Recycling offers numerous benefits to both our environment and human health. Recycling is one of the best actions you can take to protect natural resources. Plastics being discarded in animal habitats continue to pose a serious threat to the health of wildlife that occupies the area. Many animals die each year from ingestion of these hazardous materials, and researchers in Ireland found that plastic bags littering wetlands could smother wildlife and algae underneath [Green et al., Environ. Sci. Tech., 2015, 49 (9), pp. 5380-5389]. Along with providing a healthier habitat for animals to live, recycling beautifies the area humans utilize for recreational purposes. You can help save our wetlands and other natural habitats by picking up litter and disposing of the unwanted materials in the appropriate recycling bins or at recycling centers.

     Visit the America Recycles Day website to find valuable information on what materials can be recycled, where they can be recycled, and how they can be recycled. The recycling locator is a useful tool the website provides for finding locations to recycle in your community. While you’re visiting the America Recycle Day website, you can also take the #BeRecycled Pledge to learn, act and share with others the power of recycling.

America Recycles Day

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.

 

Freshwater Wetlands

Freshwater habitats come in many forms ranging from glaciers to lakes, rivers, and wetlands. These freshwater ecosystems represent less than one percent of the planet’s surface while supporting over 100,000 species including but not limited to fish, frogs, worms, crawfish, and birds and mammals nesting and feeding in wetland vegetation. While serving as habitat for a large number of animals, freshwater wetlands are also home to a variety of plant types. Cattails are a common sight around freshwater lakes and marshes and help in maintaining a healthy ecosystem by filtering runoff as it flows into lakes and serving as a protectant against shoreline erosion. Floating plants, such as duckweed, are a favorite food for many ducks and geese that populate the area.

Freshwater wetlands may stay wet year-round or evaporate during the dry season. Freshwater habitats are some of the most endangered habitats in the world. Human development, agriculture, and pollution are leading factors that put the availability of freshwater at risk. Saltwater intrusion is another underlying factor interrupting the natural conditions of water quality. These impacts have extreme consequences for our freshwater biodiversity, economy, and our well-being. Louisiana’s freshwater wetlands along the coast and other areas are disappearing at a high rate. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act implements projects in an effort to preserve freshwater ecosystems.

 

Let’s Go Fishing

If you enjoy recreational fishing, eating fish, or just the beauty of fish, keep reading to find out more about how wetlands impact the survival of fish populations.

When wetlands are degraded or destroyed, it becomes a challenge for fish populations to survive and grow. Wetlands support fish survival through functions like food production, spawning and nursery habitat, protection from predators, and the reduction of water pollutants, to name a few. Wetland vegetation and dead plant material are constantly utilized by fish as a food source, refuge, natural filtration device, and a barrier to changing weather conditions.

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The loss of wetlands leads to reduced fish populations which affect the natural ecosystem, as well as commercial and recreational fishing. Food webs have a delicate balance, and with wetlands dissipating, you can expect a shift in fish and wildlife populations and human consumption. While fish rely on wetlands for food, humans depend on wetlands for food, too. Crawfish, shrimp, oysters, alligator, and fish are some of the tastiest wetland delicacies that humans enjoy eating.

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Are you curious as to which fish you can find in wetlands? Well, that depends entirely on the wetland type, geographic location, and its salinity. Common fish found in the Gulf Coast region are: shrimp because of the amount of wetland acres and amount of edge between wetlands and open waters; blue crab, which depend on the seagrass beds for food and refuge; and striped bass, which are a popular recreation fish. You can also find many other fish and crustaceans in Louisiana’s wetlands.