Avery Island Landscapes - pam-and-edmund-mcilhenny

The Louisiana wetlands, like this marsh that borders Avery Island, are important because they provide a habitat for migratory birds and other wildilfe, including many endangered species. The wetlands are also critical to the Gulf Coast commercial fishing industry. Unfortunately, the marshlands are being destroyed at alarming rates by the intrusion of salt water caused by many factors including restrictions on the natural overflow from the Mississippi River and canals dredged in the area. Not too long ago, the marsh pictured above was a prime example of the destruction--it had been reduced to a mud flat, since salt water had killed its grasses. About twelve years ago Edmund learned of Smooth Cordgrass, or Spartina alterniflora, which has the remarkable ability to act as an environmental engineer. When he introduced the grass to our area, it proved its ability to regenerate marshland, as shown above. Smooth Cordgrass, which is salt resistant, is planted at the water's edge and out into the water, where it traps sediments, and over time extends the marshland. Less salt resistant grasses like the green Roseau Cane in this photo grow up behind it, and healthy marsh is reclaimed. Today students from Louisiana's 4H clubs across the state help plant Smooth Cordgrass every summer to continue reclaiming marshlands near Avery Island. This year's summer coastal restoration program restored 18 acres of marsh.

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