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Planting in the Wetlands: A Restoration Story

June 20, 2010

Getting up early to drive to Turtle Cove was not easy, but we all managed to get out the door in a somewhat orderly fashion.  By 9am, I was sitting in an air conditioned room, in the office space of Rob Moreau, head of the Turtle Cove Research Station.

Turtle Cove Research Station - Office Space

Turtle Cove. Photo by Kelly Schultz

After giving a brief presentation on the state of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, Rob delved into the many causes of their degradation (many of which have anthropogenic origins).  Some of the major causes of wetland loss are the construction of levees along the Mississippi River, oil and gas development, runoff, saltwater intrusion and sea level rise.  Currently, 80-90% of annual wetland loss in the United States takes place in just one state – Louisiana.  With these losses, benefits from wetlands such as flood protection, nutrient cycling and natural wastewater treatment are also lost.  Rob stressed the importance of the oil and gas industries to Louisiana, claiming that they are “the backbone of Louisiana’s economy.”  With 25% of the nation’s wetlands and as a supplier of 25-40% of the nation’s seafood, Louisiana faces considerable harm due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

With this background knowledge of the wetlands, we set out to help load the wetland grasses onto the boat that would be planted along the mud-covered lips of the island.  The pontoon boat ride over to the island was breezy and laid back; and chatting with the locals, we floated towards Lake Maurepas.  Once we set to work of planting, the real adventure set in.   The grueling physical experience of planting wetland grasses is just as you would imagine it – hot, smelly and oh-so-squishy.  Splitting into teams of two, we pierced holes into the sinking mud and planted. Within minutes, I had discarded my shoes and could be found thigh-high in the sun-warmed slime.

Planting Wetland Grasses

Michelle Hu preparing mud to plant wetland grass. Photo by Kelly Schultz

By the end of the two-hour session, our UW team, including UW alumnus George Shinners, had successfully planted 600 grasses in the midday heat.  We trudged back to the pontoon boat, carefully checking for hidden snakes and sinkholes until we were able to find a spot of clear-ish water to rinse off the larger clumps of mud.

Our 600 plants cannot compare to the football field of wetlands lost every 38 minutes, but allowing a group of students to come out and discover the immensity of benefits that wetlands can offer is beyond value.  Our trip has always focused on the wetlands and its relationship with the community of the Lower Ninth.  By emphasizing and expanding on the significance and uses that wetlands possess, we and future generations will be better able to protect them from destruction and in turn, stand to benefit from their existence.

Newly planted wetland grasses

Wetland grasses planted by UW group on island in Lake Maurepas. Photo by Kelly Schultz

For more information on wetlands, visit these sites:
http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/vital/people.html
http://www.lacoast.gov/

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One Comment leave one →
  1. esha raees permalink
    January 28, 2012 2:51 pm

    but i want a story of ” if the wetlands plants and animal could speak”

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