Louisiana's wetlands are disappearing at a rate unequaled in history.In the time it takes you to read this introduction, a chunk of marsh about the size of your car (~100 square feet) will disappear from our coastline - or, in other terms, about 3 acres of wetlands per hour are lost.
Our goal is to design and implement wetlands restoration experiments, both in SITU and greenhouse, and execute the appropriate restoration procedures once sufficient data have been obtained.
Here in the marshes which comprise the western shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, an environmental disaster awaits. These wetlands, although reasonably healthy, are rapidly disappearing from our planet largely due to shoreline erosion and subsidence.
These marshes were once vibrant growing bald cypress diverse, species-rich wetland forests. The lumber from bald cypress trees is extremely desirable and has been widely used since this region was first inhabited.
With the introduction of steam (and later diesel) engines the process became amazingly more efficient. The process of pullboat logging, as it came to be known, was so efficient that entire swamp forests were virtually denuded of trees within the lifespan of an average person.
Logging canals gouged into the swamp over one hundred years ago still scar the landscape. These logging canals have altered the hydrology of the Manchac/Maureas region to such an extent that water no longer flows across in a sheet-like pattern. Instead, water flows into these ditches and directly out into larger bodies of water like Pass Manchac and Lake Pontchartrain carrying organic detritus along with the water. This loss of dead plant material is believed to be one of the primary contributors of wetland subsidence in the region.
After logging operations ceased, very little natural regeneration occurred. What regrowth did occur, did so on the slightly higher elevations of the spoil bank levees along the larger logging canals.
Our research has isolated numerous factors directly responsible for this lack of natural regeneration.
Some of our current and ongoing projects and research opportunities.
Oil Spill Bioremediation Utilizing the Physiological Processes of both Microbes and Vascular Plants
The Effects of Saltwater Intrusion Upon Bald Cypress Saplings
The Effects of Nutrient Augmentation and Management from Competing Vegetation Upon Bald Cypress Seedlings
The Effects of Inter-specific Competition Upon the Growth and Survival of Bald Cypress Seedlings
Compensatory Plant Growth Due to Insect Herbivory: A Study Utilizing Lubber Grasshoppers
This program was started in 1989 as a series of graduate student thesis projects designed to ferret out some of the reasons for the apparent lack of natural regeneration of bald cypress trees in the Manchac/Maurepas area of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. Our progress was slow in the early years, but as the initial data were analyzed our survival rates for the young saplings grew. We have now reached a respectable rate of about 80% survival for saplings after year one. Our knowledge about this fascinating ecosystem continues to grow at a steady rate as we use previously-planted trees as experimental units in new studies. Currently we have approximately 6,000 saplings ranging in age from year one to year seven with which to conduct research.
Most of our field research is conducted on the Manchac Wildlife Management Area, which is approximately 8000 acres of fresh marsh, "owned" by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and located adjacent to Turtle Cove.