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.
Located in the heart of South America is the world’s largest wetland that has not been significantly modified by humans, the Pantanal. The Pantanal is often referred to as South America’s biggest biodiversity star. However, it is also one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, often overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest. This massive wetland covers an area estimated at 75,000 square miles across Bolivia, Paraguay, and (mostly) Brazil. The Pantanal is home to over 4,700 species of plants and animals.
The array of life in the Pantanal relies on an annual flooding cycle. When it rains, about 80 percent of the floodplain is submerged underwater; throughout the dry season the water lessens. This process is essential to nurturing a biologically diverse collection of plants and providing nutrients that the wetlands need to flourish. An area that is the size of Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and Portugal combined needs a lot of water to guarantee that it continues to flood and a healthy ecosystem is preserved. The quality of the water is also important to maintaining a nourishing environment. Recently, human activity has been threatening this precious wetland. The Pantanal is threatened by intensive farming, deforestation, and pollution. Few signs of this situation improving are shown, and environmental issues are difficult to resolve quickly. Conservation of the biodiversity and natural resources of the Pantanal is essential.
While there are some people who cannot spend enough time outdoors, enjoying all of nature’s gifts, there are others who need a little more motivation to get outside and seek the beauty of our outdoors. What better time for either party to embrace the outdoor spirit of America than in the month of June, Great Outdoors Month. The month kicks off with a Presidential Proclamation, which advocates for all Americans to visit the great outdoors and to protect our nation’s legacy by conserving our lands for future generations. The Proclamation discusses the numerous possibilities for Americans to explore, play, and grow together through outdoor activities. Any activities from hiking to canoeing to wildlife watching, hunting, or fishing can involve kids by being healthy, active, and energized.
More and more Americans are seeking healthy and fun outlets as ways to stay active. The outdoor recreation community is situated in an exemplary position to help people lead a healthier lifestyle by welcoming them and providing guidance on how to take advantage of the great outdoors. Wetlands provide recreational opportunities such as fishing, canoeing, hiking, bird watching, and waterfowl hunting, just to name a few. One of the largest and most avid groups of people using wetlands is waterfowl hunters. There are an estimated 3 million migratory bird hunters in the United States. This year, new studies by the recreation community will record data on the key role outdoor recreation plays in local, state, and national economies. Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in our country generating nearly $887 billion in consumer spending each year and creating 7.6 million jobs. Great Outdoors Month is designed to highlight the benefits of getting involved with our great outdoors and enjoying natural resources, such as forests, parks, refuges, and other public land and waters.
Oceans are often seen as the blood of our planet. Oceans flow over nearly three-quarters of the planet, providing 97% of the Earth’s water. Not only are oceans a home to an array of marine wildlife, they create a livable environment for land-bearing organisms like humans. Even though most people do not venture far beyond the coast, the open ocean produces a massive scope of goods and services that are a fundamental part of our health, economies, and even our weather.
Marine fisheries, shipping routes, oxygen, carbon dioxide sinks, temperature, weather control, and the water cycle are all provided by the ocean and are essential to a functioning world. Ocean-based businesses contribute more than $500 billion to the world’s economy and approximately half of the world’s population resides in the coastal zone. Oceans supply food, transportation, jobs, and products that aid in keeping people warm, safe, informed, and entertained. Around 90% of all trade between countries is carried by ship. If the ocean cannot produce it, it can at least transport the goods.
Tomorrow, June 8th, people from around the world will join together in celebration to honor, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans. The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day is “Our Oceans, Our Future.” What a suiting theme! Regardless of our distance from the ocean, our lives are still highly affected by the health of Earth’s oceans. Oceans generate most of the oxygen that we breathe, provide food for us, regulate our climate, and clean the water that we drink. Without maintaining healthy oceans, our future will be affected dramatically.
Celebrate World Oceans Day by adopting the practice of appreciating our oceans through plastic pollution prevention and cleaning the ocean of marine litter. Take care of the oceans that give so much to us in return!
Families enjoying a Saturday adventure together on March 11th had the chance to explore different aspects of the ecosystems around them, including ways that wetlands help them and native wildlife. Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration staff exhibited materials and games at the Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center as part of 2017 Family Adventure Day to benefit the non-profit Healing House in Lafayette, LA. This annual event sends families to different locations throughout Lafayette for experiences that range from face painting to coming face-to- face with a snake.
Over 250 people stopped by the Center where they had the opportunity to see a demonstration of how coastal wetlands protect interior communities and wildlife habitat from storm surge. Visitors could pick up recent issues of WaterMarks and other materials on wetlands restoration projects in coastal Louisiana. Kids also received Henri Heron’s activity book and helped match Louisiana wildlife with the wetland habitat they need to survive.
Other exhibitors, including US Fish & Wildlife Service and Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries, focused on topics like bat conservation, beekeeping, endangered species in Louisiana, and fishing. Helping families understand and appreciate the diversity of natural environments in Louisiana helps ensure that those environments will be present in the future.
Louisiana’s shorelines are eroding at a drastic pace, some at rates up to 50 feet per year. The fertile but fragile soils found in the wetlands are susceptible to wave energy. As land is lost, water bodies merge together, which can increase wave fetch and shoreline erosion. Behind these shorelines lie communities, highways, and infrastructure that are at risk of washing away.
Various techniques to defend the coastline have been tested and applied under CWPPRA. Rock revetments, oyster reefs, concrete panels, and other fabricated materials have been constructed along otherwise unstable shorelines to abate wave energy and reduce erosion. These structures are designed to break waves, and they often trap waterborne sediments behind the structures that, over time, can become new land.
Through the course of the CWPPRA program, advancements have been made in shoreline structures that have helped maintain natural processes while providing critical protection. Such advancements have included using lighter-weight materials that require less maintenance and can be constructed on organic sediments. Other advancements include low-relief structures that are designed to trap sediments and natural breakwaters such as reefs that can self-maintain and support other ecological functions. Other natural shoreline protection measures include vegetative plantings, whose roots help secure soils and can promote accretion. These projects are implemented with consideration for minimizing impacts to the surrounding environment. Although some shoreline structures may look foreign in a natural landscape, they are necessary features that physically protect communities and hold wetlands in place by mitigating the harsh forces that move to destroy them.
Environmental Studies students in Christina Hidalgo’s class at the Episcopal School of Acadiana do more than learn about general environmental issues; they also get outside and participate in direct monitoring of the ecosystems around them. On February 21st and 23rd they were joined by Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act staff to discuss coastal habitats, the mammal species that call them home, and different wildlife monitoring techniques.
On Tuesday CWPPRA staff and ESA students discussed the importance of barrier beach systems for both human and wildlife communities, and students were given training in how researchers trap small mammal populations in those locations for monitoring. After students deployed small mammal traps around the ESA Cade campus on Wednesday, CWPPRA staff returned Thursday morning to help with trap collection and see what students had captured. In addition to trapping a variety of insects drawn to the oatmeal-soybean bait and several traps which had been moved by larger animals, ESA students successfully captured a marsh rice rat (Oryzomys palustris)!
These rodents are found throughout the Gulf and mid-to-south Atlantic coasts and as far inland as Illinois and Kansas. As the name suggests, marsh rice rats are generally found in wetland areas, although drier areas with dense grasses and sedges, while not ideal habitat, are also utilized. A native species in Louisiana, marsh rice rats can even be found out on barrier islands where their omnivorous diet lets them take advantage of both terrestrial food resources and items that wash ashore. The rat captured on the ESA campus was trapped near a stream and probably forages along that water body at night. Finding a marsh rice rat on a school campus is a reminder that wetland habitats come in a range of sizes and types and that we share those habitats with many different species.