Louisiana Environmental Research Center

EPA Grant Number: R829584
Center: Louisiana Environmental Research Center (McNeese State)
Center Director: Ford, Mark A.
Title: Louisiana Environmental Research Center
Investigators: Ford, Mark A. , Stacy, Gus
Institution: McNeese State University
EPA Project Officer: Carleton, James N
Project Period: February 1, 2002 through January 31, 2007
Project Amount: $1,334,900
RFA: Targeted Research Center (2004) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Targeted Research

Objective:

Louisiana continues to lose wetlands at an alarming rate. This crisis is of national significance and will have devastating impacts on Louisiana and the nation. Wetlands are lost as a result of subsidence, saltwater intrusion, sea level rise, herbivores, oil or chemical spills, and many other natural or man-induced factors. Highly productive vegetated wetlands are being converted to unproductive open water at the rate of a parcel the size of a football field every 30 minutes.

Approximately 35 square miles are being lost annually. The Governor’s Committee on the Future of Coastal Louisiana reports that without the wetlands, tens of billions of dollars will be lost to the state and nation. The benefits of wetlands include: storm protection, protection of oil and gas networks, protection of transportation networks, water quality, fisheries, protection of coastal communities and infrastructure, protection of unique world renowned ecosystems, and many intangible values.

The Louisiana Environmental Research Center (LERC) was created in 1990 to conduct basic research, accumulate and disseminate information, and create awareness through education of environmental issues and concepts related to wetlands restoration/remediation. LERC’s studies and research are directed at wetland restoration, ecology, and the environmental effects of oil spills.

Louisiana’s coastal area is generally divided into two geographic sections: the western area called the Chenier Plain and the eastern area called the Deltaic Plain. The Chenier Plain is dominated by old beach lines and ridges indicating that the sea is the dominant force shaping the region. The Deltaic Plain is dominated by the Mississippi River and the deltaic processes, which are ongoing but have been interrupted by man’s activities. Many of the restoration techniques differ in the two regions. LERC research is directed at Chenier Plain restoration techniques, although much of LERC’s work has applications in both regions.

LERC’s research focus has been on newly created wetlands on the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, south of Lake Charles. The Calcasieu Ship Channel is periodically dredged to allow ship traffic to navigate from the mouth of Calcasieu Pass to the industries at Lake Charles. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has used the dredged material to fill open water areas, creating new marsh sites. The first site created was finished in 1983. It was the first experimental use of restoring wetlands in the Calcasieu River Basin using dredged material. Four additional areas have been levied and filled with dredged material, creating a living laboratory for LERC scientists to study restoration sites of various ages. The years the sites were created and the sizes are as follows:

1993 - 665 acres
1996 - 425 acres
1999 - 274 acres
2002 - 205 acres

The objective of this research project is to research restoration techniques to return open water unproductive areas to productive vegetated wetlands. Regardless of what kills the vegetation, subsidence, sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, oil or chemical spills, dredging canals, or other factors, the knowledge gained from LERC’s researchers will help guide wetlands managers and decisionmakers as restoration efforts increase.

Project Objectives

Our research program consists of seven projects, which are described below.

Project 1: EPA Project IV—Wetlands Restoration and Remediation in Southwest Louisiana Marshes: A Study Of Soil Elevation, Vertical Accretion, Shallow Subsidence And Root Zone Influences in Marshes Restored Using a Variety of Techniques. Restoration using dedicated dredged materials will be studied. Our question is, “Can restored marshes function like natural marshes?” Marsh restoration will be assessed by studying five marshes restored using dedicated dredged material whose ages range from less than 1 year to 19 years. Variables of root zone tissue primary production (biomass and volume), soil surface relative elevation, and vertical soil accretion will be examined to determine influencing factors on the success and long-term survival of restored march elevations.

Project 2: Developing Methods for Identifying Suitable Donors for Wetland Plant Restoration Through Transplantation. To determine the appropriateness of restoring wetlands by transplanting Spartina alterniflora from distant sites as is commonlypracticed.

Project 3: Effects of Salinity and Bottom Substrate Composition on the Growth and Proliferation of Widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima). The growth and proliferation of widgeongrass is affected by various factors such as sunlight, temperature, and salinity. In the sulfur-rich, organic bottom substrate of Gulf of Mexico tidal marshes, widgeongrass growth and proliferation is hindered severely at salinities of 12-15 ppt. In the sandy soils of the coastal bend of Gulf bays, however, widgeongrass thrives at salinities of 25 ppt. This salinity- and bottom substrate-dependent growth has not been characterized fully. The differences in salt-tolerance likely are dependent on the soil reduction-oxidation potential of the two different types of bottom substrate. The objectives of this project are to determine the effects that salinity and bottom substrate composition contribute to widgeongrass growth. Also, we are attempting to conduct genetic analyses using specific genomic markers to determine if genetic drift has occurred between R. maritima stands that grow in different environments and in different states across the Gulf Coast.

Project 4: A Comparison of Health Parameters and Parasites in the Marsh Rice Rat Oryzomys palustris From Natural Freshwater, Saltwater, and Restored Marshes in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. The objective of this project is to examine the overall health of marsh rice rats living in natural and restored saltwater (brackish) marshes, as well as freshwater marshes in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. Through the analysis of hematological, immunological, and hepatological measurements, as well as the examination of endoparasites and ectoparasites, we will determine if populations of rice rats living in any of these habitats may be less able to meet physiological challenges than those living in other types of habitats.

Project 5: Comparison of Metal Concentrations in Soils, Sediments, and Selected Species From the Area Around Chevron Texaco No. 2 Bayou Tank Battery in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Louisiana and Preliminary Determination of Oxidation State (Species) of Selected Metals From Soils and Sediments in the Immediate Area Around Chevron Texaco No. 2 Bayou Tank Battery in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Louisiana and in Laboratory-Controlled Burns. This research will collect soil and sediment samples from a crude oil spill site that was remediated by a controlled burning in the Sabine Wildlife National Refuge in Southwest Louisiana for determination of selected metals: vanadium, nickel, manganese, and zinc. A preliminary study of metal speciation (oxidation state) in these soils for Vanadium will be pursued using X-Ray Absorption Near Edge Spectroscopy (XANES) at the nearby Center for Advanced Materials (CAMD) in Baton Rouge.

Project 6: Use of The Prairie Garden and Plant Material Center To Collect, Propagate, and Maintain Breeder Blocks and Garden Specimens of Louisiana Prairie And Wetland Ecotypes. Existing breeder blocks of black wand root, cluster bushmint, rattlesnake master, hoary pea, marsh mallow, and little blue stem were maintained and seed was collected and forwarded to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Material Center in Golden Meadow, Louisiana.

The objectives of the conservatory have been met for the first year. Breeder blocks were maintained for outreach education and plant material conservation. Records are being kept on species maintained in the breeder blocks and garden area as recommended by the NRCS and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The objectives of the conservatory are to: (1) collect, propagate, and maintain breeder blocks of Louisiana ecotypes for outreach education; (2) collect, propagate, and maintain breeder blocks of Louisiana ecotypes for prairie re-establishment; (3) develop foundational knowledge for future research concerning prairie conservation; and (4) enhance the ongoing, collaborative efforts of academia, government, and private agencies to reestablish the prairie.

Project 7: Density of Marsh Periwinkles and Fire Ant Mounds in Natural and Restored Marshes in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. The objectives of this project are to:(1) assess variation in periwinkle (snail) density among marshes differing in the degree of restoration; and (2) determine if there is a relationship between the densities of periwinkles and fire ant mounds.


Journal Articles: 4 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other center views: All 22 publications 4 publications in selected types All 4 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Edwards KR, Proffitt CE. Comparison of wetland structural characteristics between created and natural salt marshes in southwest Louisiana, USA. Wetlands 2003;23(2):344-356. R829584 (2004)
  • Abstract: SpringerLink
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  • Other: Springer
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  • Journal Article Edwards KR, Mills KP. Aboveground and belowground productivity of Spartina alterniflora (Smooth Cordgrass) in natural and created Louisiana salt marshes. Estuaries and Coasts 2005;28(2):252-265. R829584 (2004)
  • Abstract: SpringerLink
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  • Other: McNeese
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  • Journal Article Simpson CD, Paulsen M, Dills RL, Liu L-JS, Kalman DA. Determination of methoxyphenols in ambient atmospheric particulate matter:tracers for wood combustion. Environmental Science & Technology 2005;39(2):631-637. R829584 (2004)
    R827355 (2004)
    R827355 (Final)
    R827355C003 (2004)
    R827355C003 (Final)
    R827355C010 (2003)
    R827355C010 (Final)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: ACS-Full Text HTML
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  • Abstract: ACS-Abstract
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  • Other: ACS-Full Text PDF
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  • Journal Article Sneddon J, Hardaway C, Bobbadi KK, Beck JN. A study of a crude oil spill site for selected metal concentrations remediated by a controlled burning in southwest Louisiana. Microchemical Journal 2006;82(1):8-16. R829584 (2004)
  • Abstract: Science Direct
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  • Supplemental Keywords:

    wetlands, wetland restoration, wetland remediation, marsh, Louisiana, restored marshes, sedimentation rate, vertical soil accretion, root zone influences,, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Restoration, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, contaminated sediment, coastal environments, restoration strategies, ecological recovery, remediation, wetland restoration, oil spills, environmental rehabilitation, water quality

    Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002
  • 2003
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005
  • Final
  • Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R829584C001 Wetland Restoration and Remediation in Southwest Louisiana Marshes: A Study of Soil Elevation, Vertical Accretion, Shallow Subsidence and Root Zone Influences in Marshes Restored Using a Variety of Techniques
    R829584C002 Developing Methods for Identifying Suitable Donors for Wetland Plant Restoration Through Transplantation
    R829584C003 Effects of Salinity and Bottom Substrate Composition on the Growth and Proliferation of Widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima)
    R829584C004 A Comparison of Health Parameters and Parasites in the Marsh Rice Rat Oryzomys palustris From Natural Freshwater, Saltwater, and Restored Marshes in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge
    R829584C005 Comparison of Metal Concentrations in Soils, Sediments, and Selected Species From the Area Around Chevron Texaco No. 2 Bayou Tank Battery in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Louisiana and Preliminary Determination of Oxidation State
    R829584C006 Use of The Prairie Garden and Plant Material Center To Collect, Propagate, and Maintain Breeder Blocks and Garden Specimens of Louisiana Prairie And Wetland Ecotypes
    R829584C007 Density of Marsh Periwinkles and Fire Ant Mounds in Natural and Restored Marshes in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge