TERREBONE PARISH AND MANDALAY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, LOUISIANA, USA
The inland and coastal marshlands of Terrebone Parish southwest of New Orleans are important wintering habitats for American waterfowl and Central/South American songbird populations. They also offer significant economic opportunities: recreational and tourist jobs for freshwater marshes such as the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge near Houma, and shell fishing and shrimp harvesting for families living who have operated businesses on the coast for generations.
The ecological threats to these valuable marshlands are real and significant. The region experienced land loss rates of about 10 square miles per year from 1978 –1990, largely due to oil and gas drilling and operations. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita contributed a further 19 square miles of land loss. Meanwhile, infrastructure to prevent Mississippi River flooding has diverted the flow of silt that replenishes coastal marshes – the silt now flows out to the Gulf of Mexico.
Land subsidence due to the withdrawal of oil and sea level rise due to climate change threaten to inundate the entire region under water in this century. A recent U.S. Geological Survey study concluded: “ . . . tidal fresh marsh will be at least 95% lost under all scenarios: it is predominantly a question of when . . . inland fresh marsh follows the same pattern . . . swamps are actually predicted to fare worse than fresh marshes.” Current marshland loss is reported to be equivalent in size to a football field an hour!
It is vital for photographers to document the beauty of these marshes to show what can be saved if we take the right steps. The sight of majestic cypress and tupelo trees intermingled with hanging mosses and rustling grasses stays with you.
Visit and donate: Restore the Earth Foundation is seeking to replant one million acres of southern Louisiana marshes in the Mississippi River Basin: http://restoretheearth.org. The Barataria Terrebone National Estuary Program is also working to preserve and restore a 4.2 million-acure region between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi River: https://btnep.org.