Developing healthy marsh topic of workshop

For a number of years, the coastal marshlands have been suffering a slow death. But at a recent meeting, marsh mangers and researchers were hoping to find ways to correct the problem.

A three-day workshop held May 22-24 for marsh managers at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge explored ways to help keep the coastline healthy, said LSU AgCenter coastal ecologist Andy Nyman.

“Back in the 1990s when I was finishing my Ph.D., I was looking for ways to bring marsh managers together,” Nyman said.

Coastal marsh managers and researchers met to share what they know and don’t know about sea-level rise and subsidence, along with other issues coastal wetlands will encounter over the next 100 years.

Rockefeller Refuge, managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, was selected as the host site because of the many coastal issues the area is encountering. Rockefeller is nearing renovation of facilities that were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Rita’s strike in 2005.

Nyman said a total of 36 attendees came from the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, and the Atlantic Coast states of South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

Marshes put down new layers of soil to help build up the elevation, but if it doesn’t build up fast enough, the marsh dies.

“I go to conferences every year, but I don’t talk to marsh managers because they are normally not there I talk to researchers,” Nyman said.

“I had just about given up on bringing the marsh managers together for a meeting,” he said. “But then I talked to the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership in Dundee, Illinois, and they said they would finance a meeting.”

Some of the problems in Louisiana have stemmed from canals and levees created by the oil companies.Other problems result from differences in subsidence, which require marshes to build up more elevation in some places, and from extremely rapid shoreline erosion, Nyman said.

“Now that we’ve completed the first workshop, I hope it will be easier to generate funds for the next meeting,” Nyman said.
When European settlers came to Louisiana, the area in New Orleans East was at sea level, he said. But that has changed due to changes in land use, which have caused rapid subsidence there and other areas along the coast.

“So the goal of the workshop was to get the marsh managers to realize that as they are managing the vegetation to create waterfowl food, they are also inadvertently managing for or against elevation,” he said.

“We don’t know yet what it will take to increase elevation,” he said. “It’s going to take us a while to figure that out.”

Nyman said he doesn’t plan to hold the event in 2019, but hopes to be back in 2020 to continue the conversation.

About the author

Dan Gil

Dan Gil

Dan Gill is an Associate Professor in Consumer Horticulture with the LSU AgCenter, a position he has held since 2001. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in horticulture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Before moving to Baton Rouge to take on statewide responsibilities, he was headquartered in New Orleans as an extension horticulturist from 1980 to 2001. While there, he became established as a reliable source of helpful, useful advice on lawn and garden topics through his media work.

He is the spokesperson for the LSU AgCenter’s Get It Growing project, a statewide educational effort in home horticulture utilizing radio, Internet, TV and newsprint. Gardeners throughout Louisiana read his columns in local newspapers watch his gardening segments on local TV stations, listen to him on local radio and access content on the Internet.

In the New Orleans area, Dan appears weekly on the Channel 4 Morning News, writes a weekly gardening column for The Times-Picayune and hosts the Saturday morning Garden Show on WWL 870-AM, a live call-in radio program that reaches southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Dan is author of Month-by-Month Gardening in Louisiana and co-author of the Louisiana Gardener’s Guide, Month-by-Month Gardening in Texas and Texas Gardener’s Resource. His “Only in Louisiana” column appears monthly in the Louisiana Gardener Magazine, and his articles have also appeared nationally in Fine Gardening Magazine.

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