Like the fingers on a hand, the Mississippi River extends far and wide into the Gulf of Mexico. As this great river sends fresh water and snowmelt from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains down through the Midwestern plains to the sea, it also transports tremendous loads of sediment downstream. Before the Mississippi River was modified, straightened and dammed—its floodplain disconnected by levees and development—the delta relied on the delivery of those millions of cubic feet of sediment and nutrients to the vast marshlands downstream, where a vast and biodiverse ecosystem historically thrived. These marshlands, known as the Mississippi River Delta, were built over thousands of years—creating habitat for countless species of birds, fish, reptiles, flowers and trees that rely on this freshwater ecosystem. The wetlands also act as a barrier of protection to the coast from erosion and storms from the sea, creating a series of dynamic, living, breathing, interconnected barrier islands.
Today, Louisiana's coastline and the delta at large are disappearing at an alarming rate. Every 100 minutes, a football field of land disappears into the Gulf of Mexico. Largely due to the altered state of the Mississippi River, this valuable sediment is now trapped and prevented from reaching the delta. At the same time as climates change, rising sea levels and severe hurricanes that batter its shores continue to scrape away at the delta year after year. A delta starved of sediment will soon fade into the ocean completely.
SITKA has awarded The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Restore The Mississippi River Delta with an Ecosystem Grant to support the planting of native trees in vulnerable stretches of the delta. In doing so, habitat loss can be reduced as these newly strengthened stretches of the delta will help secure the greater ecosystem by literally putting roots in the ground and anchoring the land. When the land is strong, more sediment can be collected, land can grow and erosion can be slowed or stopped. By bolstering these communities with new stands of native cypress trees, The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation can help save the Mississippi River Delta and curb the loss of marshland, and destruction of one of the last great wildlife refuges in North America.
To further support these efforts, SITKA will support the construction of a new native tree nursery at a local school in the heart of the Mississippi River Delta. The tree nursery will act as a bridge between the next generation of young people and the wild ecosystems that they will have a hand in stewarding and restoring.
Learn More about SITKA Ecosystem Grants.