Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lake Martin needs your Support

The best Louisiana swamp tours I have ever done have far the most part been at Lake Martin, but why can't they leave it alone? It is a swamp! It is supposed to be filled with plants.. But like in the Atchafalaya Basin, I have had to deal with a herbicide I regard as an enemy of nature and ecology called agent orange. The image below shows how plant control affects an indigenous species at Lake Martin. Pictured here is two leafs of American Lotus. One was sprayed and one not.

I am not against plant control, I am against the way it is being done. If water hyacinth is not controlled it will take over the lake and prevent recreational use of the lake. But to attack one non-indigenous invasive plant, and kill the tress and aquatic plants that are part of the ecology and natural beauty that our visitors come to enjoy is unacceptable. Furthermore, American Lotus naturally dies off every year at the end of summer, so what is the point of spraying it? Here it is being sprayed in August and by the end of next month, most of this will die off naturally. Are our government workers making work for themselves?

In the image below you can see that water hyacinth(in the foreground) was sprayed along with the lotus in the back.

In the image below we can see a helicoil snail on a lotus leaf, which was once very abundant at Lake Martin.

As neat as it is to show a snail on a swamp tour for educational purposes, more importantly snails are a part of the diet of white and glossy ibis which walk around upon the floating mats of plants being attacked here.

I can remember many times I was able to get in close range of glossy ibis busily feeding upon snails in the north end at Lake Martin while on tour. The entire conglomeration of floating plants and button bush on the north, east, and west sides of Lake Martin have been destroyed. Since plant control has destroyed hundreds of acres of button bush and floating mats of plants I see the ibis fly over, but never stop and feed the way they did a decade ago.

The chemical being used is very effective in killing trees too, as can be seen in the image below.

This is a cypress tree growing along the bank at the boat landing that was sprayed last week. Why? Bald Cypress is our state tree. Maybe the government workers spraying the herbicide don't know a cypress from an non-native, invasive species.

And in the image below, we can see a buttonbush that was also sprayed.

But let's have a closer look at this buttonbush.In the center of the bush is a nest, which last time I checked had baby birds in it as seen in the images below.
This is a button which is so close to my road that I could run over the nest if I was not careful. Not only is this nest on my road and on my tour everytime I went out to educate and entertain our visiting guests, I videoed the female building the nest about a month ago. One end of my boat was about 10 feet from the nest and the momma busily gathered strands of dead grass in the surrounding floating mat of plants and flew into the nest site with the nest building materials in her beak. I videoed her work for over an hour before my battery went dead and I later visited her for video purposes and passed within 2 feet of her nest everytime I did a tour there. When I brought Richard Martin of the Nature Conservancy out to witness the destruction of the button bush and floating mats of plants in this area he agreed that plant control was out of control, but argued that if we don't spray the floating mats of plants the lake will fill in. He also claimed that fish do not live under floating mats of plants. I thought to myself what planet does this guy come from!

Along with Redwing Blackbirds with baby birds nesting in trees being sprayed are also many other things we do not often see in the underwater world of the floating mats of plants. Many forms of insects use floating mats of plants to lay eggs that hatch into larvae which become food for fish and other forms of predators in the water.The dragonfly for instance not only provides food for fish as a larvae in the water, it is one of the reasons we don't have mosquitos on my tour. Anytime any one species is diminished it offsets the balance for all species in that ecology. The ecology of Lake Martin is being threatened by plant control and no one seems to care but me. You contact the Nature Conservancy and voice your opinion to support the wildlife that needs floating mats of plants and join the protest that I am organizing against unwarranted plant control at Lake Martin.