National Wildlife Refuge

The National Wildlife Refuge System includes public lands and waters that are set aside to conserve America’s wildlife and vegetation. The protected areas of the National Wildlife Refuge are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Since initiation in the early 1900s, the system has grown immensely to over 500 National Wildlife Refuges.

A variety of habitats are managed by the National Wildlife Refuges, including wetlands, prairies, coastal and marine areas just to name a few.  Conserving the threatened or endangered species of these habitats is a primary focus of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Employees must manage the refuge by controlling invasive species, securing adequate water resources, and assessing external threats to the protected area.

If you’re interested in outdoor recreational activities like hunting, birding, fishing or even environmental education, National Wildlife Refuges welcome guests to participate in the year-round fun that can be found at a refuge in any of the fifty states. You can find a National Wildlife Refuge you would like to visit by clicking here.

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Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website to read more information and updates about the National Wildlife Refuge System.

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School’s in Session

Are you interested in learning more about coastal restoration in Louisiana? Perhaps, you are looking for a fun, easy way to educate on coastal restoration topics. Either way, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act has the tools for you. Visit our website to find a wetland curriculum for teachers, activity books for children, printed materials, interactive games, quizzes and more.

Click the links below to join in on the fun!

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Giant Salvinia

Giant Salvinia, or Salvinia adnata, often referred to as the green monster, poses a serious threat to wetland ecosystems. This highly invasive, aquatic plant species is native to Brazil. The floating aquatic fern has leaves covered with small hairs on the upper surface that become compressed into chains forming a dense, compiled mat-like structure. In the United States, it’s difficult to control Giant Salvinia due to the lack of legal herbicides that work efficiently to stop it from spreading. Giant Salvinia was first spotted in Chenier Plain Marshes in 2009; since then it has spread throughout.

This non-native plant species has an exceedingly rapid growth rate, and under the right conditions it can potentially take over a waterway causing catastrophic results. The mat blocks sunlight from penetrating into the water, ultimately killing phytoplankton and other aquatic plant species, as well as exhausting oxygen levels, which alters the area as a waterfowl habitat and degrades the water quality for fish. Giant Salvinia is unintentionally spread to new water bodies on boats and fishing gear. One way to prevent the expansion of Giant Salvinia is to properly clean boating equipment and vessels of any plant fragments. These plant fragments, garden, and aquarium plants should all be discarded properly in the trash and kept out of water bodies. It is important to properly control and dispose of the plant material in order to keep lakes, rivers, ponds and other freshwater wetlands functioning properly without the disturbance caused by Giant Salvinia.

Cyrtobagous salviniae, a species of weevil, is often referred to as the salvinia weevil due to being a biological pest control against the highly invasive Giant Salvinia. For more information on Giant Salvinia and CWPPRA’s efforts to control this invasive plant species visit the Coastwide Salvinia Weevil Propagation Facility (LA-284) Fact Sheet.

Classification of Marshes

Marsh is a type of wetland that is continually flooded with water. Marshes can be found both on the coast or inland. Most of the water present is due to surface water; however, some groundwater also fills this wetland area.

Marshes can be divided into two main categories: non-tidal and tidal.

Non-tidal Marshes:

  • Most widely distributed and productive wetlands in North America
  • Occur along the boundaries of lakes, streams, rivers and ponds
  • Mostly freshwater, but some are brackish or alkaline
  • Beneath these wetlands lie highly organic soils
  • You might spot cattails, lily pads, reeds, and an array of waterfowl in this wetland
  • Alleviate flood damage and filter surface runoff

Tidal Marshes:

  • Found along protected coastlines and impacted by ocean tides
  • Present along the Gulf of Mexico
  • Some are freshwater or brackish, mostly saline
  • Provide shelter and nesting sites for migratory fowl
  • Covered by smooth cordgrass, spike grass, and salt meadow rush
  • Slow down shoreline erosion

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National Estuaries Week

On August 3, 2017, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution designating the week of September 16th through September 23rd as National Estuaries Week.

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Over 100 million people nationwide live near estuaries and use these resources in their daily lives through agriculture, tourism, commercial fishing, power generation, and as shipping ports. Estuaries, where the river mouths meet the ocean, are where fresh and saltwater mix.  One of the most expansive and productive estuaries in the world is located in the United States at the interface of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Along with providing jobs, estuaries have one of the highest productivity rates among ecosystems in the world. Estuaries serve as habitat for fish, waterfowl, and a variety of other wildlife by providing food and shelter during migration and mating season.

Estuaries are a well-known hotspot for recreational fishing. Take part in celebrating National Estuaries Week by reeling in a big catch while helping to keep your estuary areas clean of trash and healthy for the wildlife and vegetation. Visit our friends over at the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program for a list of activities and ways you can participate in National Estuaries Week.

It’s Blue Crab Season – Let’s Get Crackin’

FUN FACTS:

  • Female blue crabs mate only once during their lifetime.
  • The average lifespan of a blue crab is 3 years.
  • The scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, means “savory beautiful swimmer.”

Blue crabs are crustaceans with a hard upper shell, typically grey, blue, or brownish-green in color. The blue crab gets its name from its sapphire-tinted claws. Blue crabs have two large claws, six walking legs, and two paddle-like swimming legs. One thing that sets male and female crabs apart is that females have red tips on their claws. Another distinction between male and female blue crabs is the shape of the abdomen. A blue crab male’s abdomen has a long, narrow, inverted “T” shape while females have a broader, rounded “U” shaped abdomen.

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Blue crabs spend the majority of their lifetime in estuaries which often have accessible shorelines, making blue crabs a delicious challenge to catch. Blue crabs are not only sought after by commercial fishermen but recreational crabbing has become rather popular as well.

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Louisiana’s blue crab fishery is the largest in the United States accounting for more than half of the total amount harvested in the Gulf of Mexico each year. Blue crabs are prized for their sweet, tender meat and are one of the most popular forms of seafood in the United States.

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Blue crabs tend to feed on oysters, mussels, snails, plant and animal detritus, and even smaller or soft-shelled blue crabs. These creatures are very sensitive to environmental changes and populations will drastically decline if habitats are disturbed. The blue crab relies heavily on healthy wetlands for survival and the sustainability of their population. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act supports healthy estuaries that serve as habitat for species such as the blue crab.

 

Wetlands around the World

Let’s take a brief glance at wetlands around the world. Wetlands exist in many climates and on every continent except Antarctica. Considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, wetlands provide habitat for an array of water, land, and migratory bird species. The wetlands highlighted include swamps, bogs, marshes, estuaries, floodplains, lakes and many other types.

The Pantanal

The Pantanal is located in the heart of South America and is the world’s largest wetland that has not been significantly modified by humans. The Pantanal is often referred to as South America’s biggest biodiversity star stretching across Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Its complex system of marshlands, floodplains, lagoons and interconnected drainage lines is home to over 4,700 species of plants and animals. The array of life in the Pantanal relies on an annual flooding cycle. The cycle of waters rising and then receding through the dry season nurtures a biologically diverse group of plants and is essential to preserve a healthy ecosystem.

Camargue

The Camargue, also referred to as the Rhone River Delta, is an alluvial plain located in the Southeast of France. Roughly a third of the Camargue wetlands are either lakes or marsh. This wetland is one of the most highly rated places in Europe for birdwatching. The area is historically famous for the greater flamingo and Camargue’s horses. If you are enticed to visit the Camargue, be sure to look into horseback riding on this special breed of horses.

Kafue Flats

Located in central Zambia, the Kafue flats consist of a unique variety of wetland types. The landscape located along the Kafue River includes grasslands, lagoons, swamps and marshes. This wetland is extremely important to Zambia for hosting wildlife, fishing, sugarcane farming and the production of hydro-electric power. Within the Kafue National Park you can spot a number of safari camps and lodges that have brought new interest to the area and attract many tourists.

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Sundarbans

The meaning of “Sundarbans” is beautiful forests, which perfectly fits the name for the largest mangrove forest in the world. The region is also home to Sundari trees growing in salty coastal waters. These are a special kind of mangrove tree with roots called pneumatophores that emerge above the ground and aid in gaseous exchange. Along with serving as home to Sundari trees, this wetland region has possibly the largest population of Bengal tigers in the world. These tigers can be found swimming in the saline waters of this unique habitat in the same areas used by people.

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