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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The Bald Cypress

In 1963, the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) was designated as Louisiana’s official state tree. The bald cypress’s deciduous character, unlike most conifers gives, it a “bald” appearance. This type of tree is rather majestic and can be spotted in the swamps of Louisiana. It has a swollen, ridged trunk at the base; widespread branches; reddish-brown bark; and roots that often cause what we know as cypress knees to appear around the tree. Although the bald cypress is widely adaptable, it prefers to grow in wet, swampy soils. Riverbanks, floodplains, and wet depressions are specific areas in which the bald cypress thrives.

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Bald cypresses provide habitat benefits to terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. The Louisiana forestry industry is also dependent on these cypress trees to contribute to a productive annual harvest with large monetary returns on the lumber and cypress mulch produced. The Atchafalaya Basin makes up a large share of the coastal wetlands, and more the half of the acreage of the Atchafalaya basin is cypress wetland forest. The bald cypresses of the wetlands are important to Louisiana’s culture, animal habitats, and the economy. Maintaining healthy cypress wetlands is critical to maintaining a natural storm buffer, filtering polluted water, providing irreplaceable habitats, and sustaining a thriving economy.

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Cameron-Creole Freshwater Introduction

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Virtually all of the project area marshes have experienced
increased tidal exchange, saltwater intrusion, and reduced
freshwater retention resulting from hydrologic changes
associated with the Calcasieu Ship Channel and the GIWW.
In addition, thousands of acres of marsh were damaged by
Hurricane Rita and again, more recently, by Hurricane Ike.
Because of man-made alterations to the hydrology, it is
unlikely that those marshes will recover without
comprehensive restoration efforts. The Cameron-Creole
Watershed Project has successfully reduced salinities and
increased marsh productivity. However, the area remains
disconnected from freshwater, sediments, and nutrients
available from the GIWW.

The freshwater introduction project would restore the
function, value, and sustainability to approximately 22,247
acres of marsh and open water by improving hydrologic
conditions via freshwater input and increasing organic
productivity.

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The project area is located on the east side of Calcasieu Lake
and west of Gibbstown Bridge and Highway 27.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 18.

The Cameron-Creole Freshwater Introduction sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

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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LaBranche East Marsh Creation

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Dredging of access and flotation canals for the construction
of I-10 and the Illinois Central Railroad resulted in increased
salinity and altered hydrology in the area that exacerbated
the conversion of wetland vegetation into shallow open
water bodies.

The project’s primary goal is to restore marsh that has been
converted to open water. Project implementation will result
in an increase of wildlife and fisheries habitat, acreage and
diversity, along with improving water quality. In addition,
the project will provide a storm buffer protection to I-10, the
region’s primary westward hurricane evacuation route, and
complement hurricane protection measures in the area.
Project features consist of the creation of 729 acres of marsh
and the nourishment of 202 acres of existing marsh using
dedicated dredging from Lake Pontchartrain. In addition,
10,000 linear feet of tidal creeks will be created. The marsh
creation area will have a target elevation the same as average
healthy marsh for this region. Plans are to place the dredge
material in the target area with the use of low level, noncontinuous
retention dikes along the edge of the project area
allowing overtopping of material to nourish the marsh fringe.
Vegetative plantings will be utilized in the areas deemed
most critical by the project team. Successful wetland
restoration in the immediate area (PO-17) clearly
demonstrates the suitability and stability of soil and material
availability from a sustainable borrow area.

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The project features are located between Lake Pontchartrain
and I-10 in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. It is bounded on
the west by the Fall Canal and the Bayou LaBranche
Wetland Creation Project (PO-17) and the east by a pipeline
canal.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 19.

The LaBranche East Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

 

Cheniere Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration

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This area is undergoing shoreline erosion, interior wetland
loss, overwash, and breakup. The Gulf shoreline erosion rate
has doubled from 1988 to 2006. Project area marshes also
are being eroded at -11.8 ft/yr between 2003 to 2006 as well
as being converted to open water from internal breakup.

Restoration would expand the Gulf shoreline structural
integrity and associated protection by tying into two recently
constructed projects to the east and address one of the
remaining reaches of the Barataria/Plaquemines shoreline.
The design includes fill for a beach and dune plus 20-years
of advanced maintenance fill, as well as fill for marsh
creation/nourishment. The location of the type and amount
of sediment needed to construct this project already has been
identified under the East Grand Terre Project that is presently
under construction. Approximately 127 acres of beach/dune
fill would be constructed and approximately 259 acres of
marsh creation/nourishment would be constructed. Intensive
dune plantings would be conducted by seeding and installing
approved nursery stock. About half of the
marsh platform would be planted with cordgrass and
portions of the dune, swale, and marsh would be planted
with appropriate woody species. Containment dikes would
be breached no later than year three to allow tidal exchange
with the created marsh.

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The project is located in Region 2, within the Barataria Basin
portion of Plaquemines Parish.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 19.

The Cheniere Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

 

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.