Massive marsh planting to begin in coastal Alabama and Mississippi

An unprecedented marsh gardening project, spanning two states and utilizing the talents of many agencies, is ready to begin this spring. Headed by Dr. Just Cebrian, Senior Marine Scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, this ambitious "greening of the estuaries" seeks to establish new, or rehabilitate existing, marsh sites.

In 2002, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. This document identifies the crucial role salt marshes and submerged grasses play in the bay area and the need for their preservation and restoration. Many area organizations and agencies have similar plans which identify the importance and need to preserve estuarine ecosystems. Work such as that done by Dr. Cebrian, and collaborators including Weeks Bay and Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, and the volunteers of Gulf Shores High School, Fairhope High School, Americorps and Mississippi Power, is vital to tackling the challenges.

Saltmarshes and submerged grass beds were once dominant habitats along the Gulf Coast. Due to man-made and natural causes, these habitats have dwindled significantly. These highly valued habitats provide a multitude of functions from providing food and shelter for aquatic organisms to serving as wave attenuators and buffers for erosion control, and are thought to act as natural water purification systems. Dr. Cebrian's research specifically will examine how black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus), a dominant plant of our coastal saltmarshes, can be restored and if the restored marshes truly act as water cleansing systems.

Planting sites will include the Grand Bay Reserve within the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Weeks Bay Reserve, and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Cebrian's project will test what the optimal conditions are that will encourage new growth, least disturb donor sites and best filter water quality.

The first project kicks off in the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve along Bayou Heron, Mississippi during the second and third week of April. The ambitious schedule of restoration involves two days of harvesting black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus), constructing a sand wedge at the erosion site, and then transplanting the Juncus sp. to the sand wedge. The program involves the coordinated efforts of Dr. Cebrian and his students with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, staff members from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources' and the Grand Bay Reserve and volunteers from Mississippi Power.

Like our backyard gardens, these restored coastal ecosystems will need the constant attention of everyone involved. Projects such as these bring together the efforts of researchers, resource managers, and educators to fulfill a vital need of a healthy coastal environment. To learn more log onto: www.mobilebaynep.com for links to various organizations and their activities.

A complete schedule of the project and partners is listed below.

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Schedule of Harvesting, Site Preparation, and Planting

** Please call a contact below to confirm a date, activity, and location as things may change pending weather and other issues. **

April 11--Grand Bay Reserve, Bayou Heron Mississippi – Volunteers with Mississippi Power assist in harvesting salt marsh plants with Reserve personnel and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

April 12--Grand Bay Reserve, Bayou Heron, Mississippi – harvesting continues as needed

April 12--Weeks Bay Reserve Grasses in Classes Dune Vegetation Planting
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama with Fairhope High School

April 13--Dune planting continues at Bon Secour Refuge

April 17--Grand Bay Reserve, Bayou Heron, Mississippi - Construction of sand wedge for future salt marsh planting with Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Reserve personnel

April 18--Sand Wedge construction continues in Bayou Heron, Mississippi

April 18--Tentative – Harvesting underwater grass Vallisneria sp. plants Daphne, Alabama; Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

April 19--Planting Vallisneria in Weeks Bay Reserve, Barner Branch Project, Alabama with Lisa Allen and Gulf Shores High School

April 19--Grand Bay Reserve, Bayou Heron, Mississippi; Volunteers planting Juncus sp with Reserve personnel and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

April 20--Grand Bay Reserve, Bayou Heron, Missisippi planting continues

April 25--Harvesting underwater Shoal Grass, Perdido, Alabama, Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

April 26--Planting Shoal Grass Bon Secour National Wild Life Refuge, Little Lagoon, Alabama with Gulf Shores High School, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

May--Juncus harvesting and planting Weeks Bay, Alabama
Eric Brunden and AmericaCorps Volunteers, Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Contacts
Mississippi Projects
Dr. Just Cebrian, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, 251-861-7568, jcebrian@disl.org
Chris May, Grand Bay Reserve, 228-475-7047, Cell 228-697-0415
Jennifer Buchanan, Grand Bay Reserve, 228-475-7047
Susan Perkins, PR MS Dept. of Marine Resources, 228-219-5062,perkins5156@yahoo.com

Alabama Projects
Dr. Just Cebrian, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, 251-861-7568
Margaret Sedlecky, Weeks Bay Reserve, 251-928-9792
Eric Brunden, Weeks Bay Reserve, 251-928-9792
Jeremy Phillips, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, 251-540-7720
Lisa Allen, Gulf Shores High School, 251-968-4747
Megan Anderton, Fairhope High School, 251-928-8309 ext. 29021
Lee Yokel, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, 251-431-6409; lyokel@mobilebaynep.com

Financial Supporters

Gulf of Mexico Program
Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Locations / Directions

** To participate, take pictures, take video, get interviews please call one of the contacts above. Due to weather and unforeseen problems, the schedule is fluid. Transportation to some activities maybe necessary but most definitely can be arranged. **

Bayou Heron in Grand Bay, Mississippi
At the end of bayou heron road just down from the reserve office adjacent to the fishing pier; Harvesting from up and down Bayou Heron; Go to boat launch to get on boat to get to the site; Time 8AM; media and volunteers please call ahead to secure a boat ride.

DIRECTIONS: In southeast MS, Exit I-10 at the Franklin Creek Exit (#75) and travel south. Cross MS Hwy. 90 and continue south on Pecan Road. Take your first paved left. Carefully cross the tracks and turn to your right. Follow Bayou Heron Road to the end where you will find harvesting taking place along Bayou Heron

Weeks Bay / Barner Branch, Alabama

Barner Branch – Marlow Boat Basin – Kenny Horton House driveway due south of Barner Branch Bridge on Hwy 9 at white tractor tires; will need waders – not clear shot to get to locations, area is wet – call for assistance.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama

Dune planting at the end of Mobile Street in Refuge;

Shoal grass planting at the west end of Little Lagoon; take trail head parking lot and follow the road to the Lagoon.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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