Water Planet Engineering is currently working to restore oil-impacted marshland in Barataria Bay in collaboration with NOAA, USCG, BP operations, Tulane University, Nicholls State University, University of California, Berkeley and Conoco-Philips.
Our effort includes a new, innovative way to effectively re-vegetate exposed marsh shorelines. Conventional restoration efforts hand-plant bare root smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) plugs into the ground, which can be costly and labor intensive. Propagation tubes are used as a method of bringing clean substrate to oil-impacted marshes, providing propagules with a more stable medium in which to establish new marsh. The tubes are filled with pre-composted bagasse (sugar cane fiber) and root masses from native genotypes of smooth cordgrass. The tubes are laid perpendicular to the shoreline and staked into place, providing native plants, clean substrate and additional elevation to protect against further loss of marsh.
As a demonstration of our innovation against conventional, hand-planting methods, a number of additional test plots have been setup (see Marsh Test Plots map below).
Our marsh ecologists are using a variety of genotypes of smooth cordgrass: Vermilion, Catfish Lake, and local Barataria Bay plants. Conventional methods use Vermilion, a cordgrass bred for restoration. By using Vermilion, nearby wildtypes from Catfish Lake, and local wildtypes from Barataria Bay, we will be able to assess which genetic varieties are most successful at restoring ecosystem function following oil-spill remediation. Long term monitoring will gather data on changes in oiling-characteristics, plant productivity, marsh elevation, rates of erosion, and resilience following storm events, among other things, to assess the effectiveness of these various restoration techniques.