Photo credit: Christin Hume

A Post-Christmas gift: build a wall … of holiday trees for Louisiana coastline

1 min read

After Christmas, thousands of trees sit curbside by its former owners without a destination, but the dumpster.

Now, good wood finds its home along the marshes of Louisiana to deal with the region’s severe coastal erosion. And the plan works.

Swamp near New Orleans, Louisiana

In 2017, Louisiana launched an $8.3 billion 50-year plan to protect and restore its marshlands from the East Pearl River to Lake Pontchartrain.

One of the projects is the Christmas Tree Marsh Restoration initiative in which volunteers create tree-filled barriers in the bayou. A project that started 26 years ago, trees are collected from nearby Jefferson Parish then airlifted by National Guard helicopters. Once placed in the swamps, volunteers install 20 to 100 feet walls.

Using discarded Christmas trees to build 100 feet away for the coast assists for roots and plants to hold in a fragile environment.

The coastal wetlands of Louisiana are essential natural barriers against major storms. The eroded Gulf coastline played a part in damages incurred in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

When winds died, it showed areas flattened and bayous ripped from its roots. In New Orleans, a city in which some parts sit on high land, for the most part, is below sea level. The levees built to to deal with an area that often floods, need a marshland to help with water surges from major storms.

A Changing Environment

A group that is the most affected by eroding coastlines are the last remaining indigenous groups that relocated solely to bayous and swamps after European conquests. The Wendland Natives or the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw were faced to relocate from Isle de Jean Charles when climate change caused their lands to continuously be overtaken by water and storms.

Along with people leaving, the wildlife changes too. The coastal bayous used to be a breeding ground for many species, but an interbreeding to survive occurs. Scientist discovered that the mottled duck, the only duck native to the south, now mates with the common mallard duck. The result is a shift in the DNA, which will be much like the barriers that are using wood from trees grown in other regions.

Louisiana’s coastal problem, unfortunately, is the norm for a lot of shorelines in the United States. In New York, the Billion Oyster Project uses the shells of oyster to restore the depleted coast.

In North Carolina, the state implemented a number of projects to protect the natural coastlines. Watershed protection efforts such as creating an oyster sanctuary work to preserve and grow fishing estuaries.

All efforts take time to restore a coast damaged mostly by development. Project directors and states hope that the current Administration bolsters support in keeping efforts ongoing.


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