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.
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.
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.
What we typically refer to as the Louisiana iris actually consists of five species native to Louisiana and surrounding regions in the Southeastern United States. Iris brevicaulis, Iris fulva, Iris giganticaerulea, Iris hexagona and Iris nelsonii are known as the Louisiana irises. These five species participate in interbreeding which results in the variety of irises we grow today.
It is suggested to plant Louisiana iris between the months of August and September when they are dormant for optimal results. However, if you prefer to pick out the colors and types of flowers, it is best to wait until the flowers are in bloom to be sure of what you are planting. Garden cultivation and hybridizing have caused Louisiana iris to bloom in shades of blue, red, yellow, pink, brown, white, purple, and more. The wide range of colors and native quality make it an attractive addition to aquatic gardens and ordinary flower beds. Louisiana irises will grow best with as much direct sunlight as possible.
Within their native habitats, irises often grow along freshwater bayous and sloughs. This wetland vegetation has little tolerance for salt water. The Louisiana iris is at risk due to dredging through wetlands leading to saltwater intrusion. CWPPRA hydrologic restoration and freshwater diversion projects help regulate salinity and restore the natural hydrology of wetlands, ultimately preserving the iris as well as other native plants and animals. Learn more about how to #ProtectOurCoast and its native species at lacoast.gov.
Wetlands have long been considered an obstruction to development. Nearly a century ago, it was believed that wetlands did not provide substantial benefits to the environment and were deemed worthless. Wetlands were drained or filled to make room for further development, such as roads and homes. Today, scientists recognize the environmental benefits that wetlands provide and are encouraging us to preserve this environmental resource. Although we are still losing wetlands, our improved understanding of this dynamic ecosystem and the benefits it provides seems to be contributing to a decreasing loss of wetlands.
Wetlands are valuable in the fact that they provide water purification, flood protection, erosion control, groundwater recharge and discharge, and streamflow maintenance. Along with these benefits, wetlands provide habitat for a large percentage of threatened and endangered species, as well as fish and other wildlife. How a particular wetland functions and benefits the environment depends on its location and type. Wetlands take many forms including marshes, estuaries, bogs, lakes, coral reefs, and floodplains, just to name a few. Wetlands also provide recreational benefits, such as fishing, birding, nature photography, hiking, and kayaking. If you are feeling anxious to seek outdoor activity, look no further than the wetlands near you.
A partially filled or otherwise damaged wetland only reaches its minimal potential to provide all of these environmental benefits. If we want wetlands to continue to perform their ecological functions to the best of their ability, we have to protect them. Take action to help preserve one of the most biologically diverse but undervalued ecosystems.
Animal diversity in the wetland biome is greater than in any other biome type.
Wetland biomes are the perfect place for a variety of plants and animals to thrive due to the climate, food availability, and shelter provided. Amphibians and reptiles do particularly well in this environment. Some reptiles, such as turtles, need wetlands because they either live in water for much of their lives or largely rely on water for their survival. Wetlands support a variety of animals that provide plentiful food sources for reptiles. Snakes spend time around rivers and wetlands where there are food sources such as frogs and bird eggs.
Other species that populate the wetland biome are birds. Wetlands are an important habitat for birds that are breeding, nesting, and rearing young, and some bird species, stop to feed in wetlands along their migration route. The value of a wetland to a specific bird species is dependent upon the presence of surface water and the duration and timing of flooding, for example great egrets may nest in trees above water for protection from predators. The geographic location of a wetland also determines how and when birds will use it.
Alligators and crocodiles are the largest animals found in the wetland biome. The type of water found will strongly affect the types of life that survive there. When salt is present in the water, you might find shrimp and shellfish which are some of the smallest wetland animals.
Crawfish in defensive posture with claws extended, “Secret Bird Pond”, Trinity River Audubon Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.
More than a seafood delicacy, oysters are an incredible natural resource. They are extremely helpful to our environment by filtering water, providing habitat, and controlling erosion. Adult oysters may filter up to two and a half gallons of water per hour, which in turn improves water quality. Oysters build reefs that provide habitat for fish, shrimp, crabs, and other aquatic animals. Oyster larvae need the hard, shell surface for settlement and growth. A special focus that has been put on oysters recently is their ability to control land erosion.
Oyster reefs have been constructed along eroding shorelines in an effort to lessen wave energy and ultimately reduce erosion. Seven of our nation’s fifteen largest shipping ports are located along the Gulf of Mexico. The wakes created by the cargo ships heighten erosion along an already disappearing coastline.
Globally, it is estimated that 85% of oyster reefs have been lost. Large-scale restoration projects can create man-made oyster reefs that duplicate many of the benefits of natural reefs. Oysters and the massive reefs provide a foundation for a healthy ecosystem. The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) founded the Oyster Shell Recycling Program in 2014. This program collects shells from New Orleans area restaurants and utilizes the shells to restore fading oyster reefs that protect Louisiana’s coastline. A majority of shell removed from the coast is not returned back to the waters. It is vital to Louisiana’s disappearing coastline that oyster shells are brought back to help as a line of defense for coastal restoration.
Frogs are a distinct part of the wildlife we find within wetlands. When wetlands begin to flood either from rainfall or river flow, the volume of croaking increases and breeding begins to take place. Frogs more than any other terrestrial animal need water for survival, and their breeding is tied to when flooding of the wetland occurs.
Even though water is the primary factor driving frog distributions, food availability, aquatic vegetation, and predator densities are other factors that contribute. Wetland vegetation provides shelter for adult frogs. Spanish moss is popular wetland vegetation used by frogs to hide from predators. While vegetation provides shelter for adult frogs, it also serves as a platform for biofilms and organic matter to grow, which are important food sources for tadpoles. The thin, porous skin of frogs and tadpoles also makes them great bio indicators. They are very sensitive to environmental damage because of the chemicals their skin absorbs from the air and water. If an area is populated by frogs, it means the local environment is likely to be pristine.
Summer Recreation in the Wetlands
Are you looking to engage in outdoor fun this summer? Well, look no further. This Wetland Wednesday will give you plenty of ideas on how to enjoy the sunshine while spending time in one of Louisiana’s vibrant ecosystem.
One of our wetlands’ greatest qualities is providing outdoor recreation. During the summer, wetlands attract visitors of all ages to partake in boating, fishing, canoeing, photography, bird-watching, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature. Louisiana, often called “Sportsman’s Paradise,” earned this nickname due to its rich history of sports and recreation that takes place along its beautiful marshes and bayous.
This summer, The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act encourages the public to spend time in the wetlands that have made Louisiana an attraction worldwide. While utilizing the wetlands, be mindful of the wildlife and participate in keeping our wetlands healthy and clean.