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.
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. 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.
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. 
 “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
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (oystershell) 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.