Of Marshes and Machines

Resiliency of Diversification

Published on: May. 13, 2014

the diversity of habitat and function through the course of the renovation.


In 2012 we didn’t have any water control due to the ongoing construction and we experienced a historic drought. Although, this doesn’t sound like a good scenario the results weren’t bad. In response to these conditions we saw nodding smartweed pop up across much of the area, with millet and toothcup hanging on to the moist edges of the restored sloughs. During these drier conditions we were able to get out in the field and spread corn food plots around the area to provide additional food and cover during the immediate growing season and soil disturbance that would help germinate annual plants the following year.


In 2013 we had a wet cool spring that delayed the timing of drawing water down. As the summer progressed, successive rains continued to irrigate the wetland habitat at Unit A, which produced a greater expanse of millet along with pockets of wetter species like common plantain. Additionally, the plant communities varied depending upon the elevation and location within the pools. In the low lying sloughs the aquatic plants like water shield, pickerelweed, and water stargrass thrived. As I mentioned before, millet exploded in the flats and was followed by a golden ring of bidens on the upper end of the units. The wet conditions prevented corn food plots, but a few milo plots were scattered about later in the summer.


Working with Nature

The last two years illustrate the variability that weather has on our range of management actions and the potential plant responses. At the end of the day nutrients, soil, and water interact and the resulting conditions are used by a diversity of plants and animals. Understanding the ecological variability and these different potential options provides us with some flexibility when managing habitat from one year to the next. This helps us work with nature as opposed to fighting against it. Drawing the water down in some pools was well under way this year, but the recent rains remind us that our initial plans could change if this wet cycle continues.


The efficiency that technology often provides is great under optimal conditions. Unfortunately, optimal conditions rarely exist in wetlands so we must take a different approach and alter our expectations. Much like my great-grandpa used a variety of parts and pieces to build and repair his tractor, by promoting and using a diversity of plants the wetland habitat can handle the weather’s variability, take a beating, and keep on ticking into the next season.


Key Messages: 

We work with you and for you to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife.


On May 28th, 2014 at 9:23am frank said:

Last week we had some computer glitches. If you posted a comment here and don't see it published, resubmit. Thanks.

On May 19th, 2014 at 2:57pm Keith said:

Darin, Soybeans are the least desireable food source to offer waterfowl. They degrade at a very fast rate once flooded and although they are high in protein, contain several protease enzymes which inhibit the digestion of this protein. Take a look a the following link from the nutritional requirements section of Waterfowl Management Handbook.

On May 19th, 2014 at 12:50pm Darin said:

Hi Keith, If we have another wet year like last year and you are not able to get any corn plots into the fields, what are the possibilities of maybe planting some soybean plots. Keep up the good work!!

On May 15th, 2014 at 1:55pm Keith said:

We are planning to plant corn food plots at Dark Cypress Swamp this year. However, the water is over the levees again and is going to be a while until it dries enough to even think about getting a tractor in there. As Frank stated, We'll just have to wait and see what the weather does this summer.

On May 15th, 2014 at 11:53am frank said:

It will depend upon the weather and logistics.

On May 15th, 2014 at 11:50am Anonymous said:

Will any corn food plots be planted in Dark Cypress Unit this year?

On May 13th, 2014 at 6:36pm Anonymous said:

What a great real-life story of American values and ingenuity. This encouraging tribute to the past should inspire us to continually move forward boosted by the successes of our forebearers.
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