What My Trip to Louisiana Taught Me About Wetland Loss in Washington

Last week, I spent some time in Louisiana bayou country as part of a group from the New York State Marine Educators Association (NYSMEA) to learn about coastline restoration after the BP Deep Horizon oil spill in 2010, as well as after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. This was a very special opportunity to learn about Gulf Coast ecosystems and associated wetland restoration projects.

My most memorable experience was participating in a restoration planting project on the Fourchon Maritime Forest Ridge with BTNEP. We planted native trees on a newly restored natural ridge north of Port Fourchon, LA, northwest of the Deep Horizon oil spill. The task of planting was not easy; as we had to drill planting holes in the compacted clay soil with gas powered augers. In addition to planting the seedlings of live oak, sand live oak and hagberry, we also alternated planting treatments to check future survival against best planting practices. When the plantings on the Fourchon become mature, the ridge will act as critical habitat for neotropical migratory birds traveling to and from South America across the Gulf of Mexico along the Mississippi Flyway.

What did my Louisiana experience teach us about wetland loss in Washington? Wetland ecosystems represent a diverse ecological system that supports multiple habitats for wildlife and functional values for the natural ecosystem and for humans. It is estimated that between 20-50% of Washington’s wetlands have been lost during the past two centuries, with some urbanized areas of the Puget Sound area experiencing losses from 70-100%. The major causes of continuing loss and degradation of wetlands are urban expansion, forestry and agricultural practices, and the invasion of exotic plants and animals. At Seattle Aquarium, we want to help students and teachers learn about the connections between wetland systems and ocean health through our education programs on salmon, watersheds and Puget Sound ecosystems.

Come visit the Aquarium and learn more about the Puget Sound and wetland ecosystems

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