Friday, January 9, 2009

Ecological Disaster at Lake Martin

I have been doing Louisiana swamp tours at Lake Martin for 20 years and I have been there fulltime now for the last 12 years. Here is an image I recently photographed while on tour of an area that was once covered with floating mats of plants that provide food for wading birds. That area was attacked with herbicides by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Division of Plant Research and Control about 10 years ago. When I called Richard Martin with the Nature Conservancy and asked him why were hundreds of acres of button bush being killed all around the lake he did not believe me. I invited him out to see and when he came out and saw for himself he agreed that the plant control activities at Lake Martin were out of control. Bear in mind that the button bush that were killed were not targeted as a problem plant but were merely in the way of herbicide being applied to the floating mat of plants. What is more absurd is the the plants being killed were indigenous species that support the food chain leading to the wading birds that roost and nest in the rookery. Specifically I am speaking of pennywort and aquatic bladderwort. The area in the photo above once allowed wading birds to walk around on these floating mats of plants and feed upon shrimp, crawfish, snails, and small fish. As the birds walk upon the mat it is forced down slightly and flushes the small fry up where the birds can prey upon it also large fish like bass, bream and crappie are congregated under the mats and feed upon the food above and in some respects there is a symbiotoc relationship between the fish below and the birds above driving food bothways to the benefit of each other. Below is a photo of birds walking around on a floating mat of plants feeding on shrimp, crawfish, snails and fish.