Published on January 8, 2008
Unit 2: Louisiana’s Wetland Ecosystems: Unit 2: Louisiana’s Wetland Ecosystems “Louisiana’s wetlands are important because they are a vital habitat for many species of plants and animals. They provide stopover grounds for millions of migratory birds and homes for many endangered species” -Jacoby Carter, JASON Host Researcher The Life of a Marsh (pg 48): The Life of a Marsh (pg 48) 1. What kinds of wetland ecosystems can be found in Louisiana? The wetlands are divided into two main categories: Swamps which are forested wetlands, and 4 different types of marshes (fresh water, intermediate, brackish, and saltwater). Marshes of Louisiana: Marshes of Louisiana Slide4: Swamps of Louisiana 2. What kinds of plants and animals do Louisiana’s wetlands support?*additional info in teacher’s manual, page 51-52: 2. What kinds of plants and animals do Louisiana’s wetlands support? *additional info in teacher’s manual, page 51-52 The forested wetland ecosystem includes deciduous trees, small woody plants, alligators, turtles, frogs, salamanders, herons, egrets, ibises, crayfish, and much more…don’t forget, lots of BUGS! The marsh ecosystems include 93 species of plants, turtles, alligators, snakes, muskrats, egrets, herons, and ducks living in the freshwater system. The saltwater system is home to only 17 species of plants, blue crabs, speckled trout, redfish and shrimp. Finally, the brackish and intermediate systems are home to many grasses and reeds, fish and shellfish such as menhaden and shrimp. Slide6: Blue Crab, Louisiana Irises, and a Bald Cypress (LA State Tree) Menhaden and Mullet: Menhaden and Mullet Slide8: 3. How do plants and animals depend on one another and their environment for survival? This section is great for discussing Food Webs and introducing vocabulary such as producers, consumers, decomposers, and the detrital cycle. For more advanced classes, have them identify the webs that are specific to these systems. Slide9: 4. How are changes to Louisiana’s wetlands impacting the plant and animal communities that live there? Louisiana is losing about 17.2 sq. mi. of wetlands every year do to natural and human processes. This means that about the area of a football field is being lost every 30 MINUTES!! Saltwater Intrusion is the process by which saltwater moves in from the ocean toward freshwater environments. As the coastal wetlands disappear, they provide less protection from ocean water moving inland. This increases the level of saltwater upstream causing freshwater species to shift to lower salinity areas, or die. Slide10: Saltwater intrusion is speeded up by human activities such as the building of navigational waterways called channels, and by introducing alien (non-native) species, such as the Nutria. Non-native species often thrive in their new environments due to lack of natural predators. Without predators the species population gets out of control, and they end up crowding out endemic and native species by competition for food and space. Nutria: The Problem: Nutria: The Problem Nutria are members of the rodent family and are native to South America. They were introduced to Louisiana in the late 1930’s for fur farming. Some Nutria escaped the farms and found refuge in the nearby marshes, where they have flourished since. While fur trapping was popular, the Nutria numbers were kept in line. However, with the decline in demand for Nutria furs, and female Nutria having litters of 2-12 young two times per year, the Nutria population has grown out of control. Why are they a problem??? Nutria drive out native species such as muskrats due to competition for food. Additionally, they gnaw large portions of marsh plants and eventually cause eat-outs. Eat-outs are not fast food restaurants, but a process which occurs when an animal feeds on the roots and lower portions of a plant. When this happens, the soil which was held together by that plant is washed into the marsh during a flood, along with other plants. A hole then remains in the marsh leaving open water where once there was land. NUTRIA: Cute but Deadly!!!: NUTRIA: Cute but Deadly!!! Nutria: The New White Meat: Nutria: The New White Meat Louisiana made an attempt to control the Nutria population by promoting it as a delicacy. For a while, it was popular as the new fad food for those courageous enough to try it with an open mind. The state had a contract with the Louisiana Seafood Exchange for a while, and hunting laws were put into place. Unfortunately, though, people could not bring themselves to enjoy the dish. The mind set is still on the fact that it is a rodent, and now only select companies and restaurants carry it. If anyone is interested, and can get their hands on some Nutria meat, there are recipes on the internet. Activity 2.2 Page 63: Activity 2.2 Page 63 How Many Nutria Are Too Many Nutria? This activity will allow the students to see how an eat out is caused by the rapid reproduction of the Nutria in comparison to the slow growth of the marsh plants. They will also learn that if the growth of their marsh is faster than the rate at which it is consumed, their marsh is healthy. On the flip side, if the growth of their marsh plants is slower than consumption, their marsh is in danger. The ultimate lesson is how the introduction of an alien species impacts the environment Lab Activity Page T71c: Lab Activity Page T71c What Does It Take to Keep a Brood of Brine Shrimp Healthy? Resources for this lab: http://ut.water.usgs.gov/shrimp This website gives detailed information about brine shrimp. For an elementary adaptation of this activity visit http://teachers.net/lessons/posts/659.html Additional Resources in Support of Unit 2: Additional Resources in Support of Unit 2 [email protected] Ames website has website links and mentor teacher information: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/projects/jason/ More info on Nutria: www.nutria.com www.iisgcp.org/EXOTICSP/nutria.htm TJO Digital Lab: The Secret Life of the Bayou Any Questions????? Please fill out your teacher evaluation forms for this class please. Thank you!!: Any Questions????? Please fill out your teacher evaluation forms for this class please. Thank you!!