Celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week

Thank God for the U.S. National Wildlife Refuges, say I! They are as much a refuge to me as they are to the wildlife, I think. My life is so much richer for them. Hats off to the founders, the designers, the rangers and managers. God bless them and the wildlife and habitat that they protect.

Louisiana Black Bear near the Visitors’ Centre at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge this Summer. C.Paxton image and copyright.

Click here for my journal account of a special day that Kimmie and I enjoyed at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge recently (complete with images and a short video clip). It was a lovely day, full of interest and I thoroughly recommend a visit. Especially as they have now surfaced the previously rough part of the Quebec Road that leads to the Visitors’ Center.

Last Saturday I went along to The Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe Louisiana for their 2019 Fall Festival. It was a great family fun day and I was there with my colleagues from the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast manning a stall, selling fund-raising T-shirts and spreading awareness of our educational workshops and field trips that we are doing on a regular basis. Please see our LMNNE website for more information about our group: https://louisianamasternaturalistsnortheast.com/

Our orientation film played on the big screen and our stall had much more to offer this year than we had last year. Long and short sleeved T-shirts, an explanatory brochure and a brochure about the health benefits of woodland walking that also lists some of the great wild places in northeastern Louisiana where we can walk. To download the 2.6 MB version of the Healing Nature brochure as a PDF, please click below.

Also I couldn’t resist exploring some of the other stalls at the open day.

I had a brief walk-about and bought some great second-hand books, saw the wonderful wildlife photo contest entries for 2019 and some other fun stuff going on.

This time I spent a bit of time chatting with some folks on other tables. I was impressed to learn that Louisiana’s largest Solar energy farm is in West Monroe. It was established to supply energy to a water purification plant for the paper mill.

Stuart Hodnett, director of Ouachita Green told me some very encouraging news about their recent achievements. Amongst other things, such as a major clean-up sweep of the local rivers and bayous they collected over 102,000 lbs of hazardous household waste this year. On Nov. 15th they’ll be holding a household furniture collection at Monroe’s Civic Center from 9 am to 1 pm.

A new volunteer signs up to help clean-up Ouachita Parish with Ouachita Green at Director Stuart Hodnett's table. Click this link to view an interview with Stuart on Youtube. https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/5HmAEk54muw
A new volunteer signs up to help clean-up Ouachita Parish with Ouachita Green at Director Stuart Hodnett’s table. Click this link to view an interview with Stuart on Youtube.
https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/1lFep9WVhz8

This refuge is great for a number of reasons, it has a fantastic visitors’ center with displays and gift shop to fund conservation activities, a very nice boardwalk that allows dry and comfortable access to Bottomland hardwood forest and swamp and a good many other well-maintained trails, hides and an observation platform.

Here you can see forest wildlife, plants and fungi and also the swamp things! It’s great for Bald Eagles, American alligators, turtles, water fowl, woodland birds, a variety of snakes and lizards. frogs, butterflies, swamp rabbits and deer.

Some lucky souls have even encountered Alligator Snapping Turtles!

Celebrate Fall!

We welcome anybody in the area who is interested in a fun and educational day! The 22nd Annual Fall Celebration: Saturday, October 12, 9 am-2 pm at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The day kicks-off at 8:30 am with a Nature Walk led by Amy Ouchley, celebrated wildlife author, wildlife biologist and Louisiana Master Naturalist. Come along and find out how a walk in the woods can help your mind body and spirit. To learn more about our Louisiana Master Naturalist Northeast Group please click here to watch our Youtube video.

Why join The Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast ? The 16 minute version

Check out our Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast website for more information about our group.

Now that it is getting a bit cooler you may be ready to get out into some natural areas for some healthy walking. The benefits of woodland walking are extolled in Kimmie Paxton’s Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Certification Project. Click on the image below to view the brochure as a PDF. Right click and select the ‘save as’ option to download the brochure to a folder of your choice.

Healing Nature Image

Activities for all ages (9 am-2 pm) include: the 11 am turning of the Blue Goose Migration Marker, free canoeing and kayaking, a refuge photo exhibit, native animal displays, nature book sale, newly designed T-shirts, face painting, human-sized animal puppets, temporary tattoos, button making, “backyard bass” game, bird ID game, zoo animals, BB-gun target practice, giant mural painting, Shirley the Elephant activities and books, science fun, recycling and anti-littering information, nature-related arts and crafts, creative photo ops, a blood drive and more.</p>

Louisiana Master Naturalists - Northeast

Louisiana Master Naturalists – Northeast will have its biggest presence ever at Fall Celebration this coming Saturday, Oct. 12, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

This is our third year to be at Friends of Black Bayou’s annual event. But this year, instead of one table, we will have two, plus not only displays and information, but t-shirts to sell and coloring pages for the kids.

t-shirtcollage3

Kim Paxton’s tri-fold of her certification project, Healing Nature, along with a tri-fold brochure we had made of the key content, will share a table with our long-sleeved blue Louisiana water thrush t-shirts. I can’t wait for weather cool enough to wear mine again!

bear back 1

The other table will feature our organizational tri-fold and our organizational brochure, plus the yellow black bear t-shirts. This is the t-shirt I’ll be wearing Saturday, and I love it, too.

Along the front of both tables, we’ll have assorted crayons…

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Celebrate Autumn on Saturday, October 12th, at Black Bayou Lake NWR, Monroe.

An Autumnal scene at Black Bayou Lake NWR, a Blanchard's Cricket Frog and tiny pin-wheel fungi.
An Autumnal scene at Black Bayou Lake NWR, a Blanchard’s Cricket Frog.
Western Ribbon Snakes can often be seen hunting frogs and crickets in the leaf litter in northeastern Louisiana. Black Bayou Lake NWR is one of the best places to see them.
Western Ribbon Snakes can often be seen hunting frogs and crickets in the leaf litter in northeastern Louisiana. Black Bayou Lake NWR is one of the best places to see them.

The 22nd Annual Friends of Black Bayou welcome you all to Fall Celebration: Saturday, October 12, 9 am-2 pm at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The day kicks-off at 8:30 am with a Nature Walk led by Amy Ouchley, celebrated wildlife author, wildlife biologist and Louisiana Master Naturalist.

Welcome to the wild!

Friends of Black Bayou once again invite the public to enjoy a day of celebration at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, October 12, 9 am-2 pm, beginning with a guided nature walk at 8:30 am.

The award-winning volunteer group is happy to be celebrating over 22 years of the community’s faithful support for this beautiful natural jewel by presenting a day of free family fun!

The day is the beginning of National Wildlife Refuge Week. Activities for all ages (9 am-2 pm) include the 11 am turning of the Blue Goose Migration Marker, free canoeing and kayaking, a refuge photo exhibit, native animal displays, nature book sale, newly designed T-shirts, face painting, human-sized animal puppets, temporary tattoos, button making, “backyard bass” game, bird ID game, zoo animals, BB-gun target practice, giant mural painting, Shirley the Elephant activities and books, science fun, recycling and anti-littering information, nature-related arts and crafts, creative photo ops, a blood drive and more.

Several community organizations, The Louisiana Master Naturalists Norteast, scouts, high school clubs and local universities will assist with the activities, along with Fish and Wildlife Service staff and FoBB members.

Preceding the other activities will be an 8:30 am nature walk, led by biologist/writer Amy Ouchley. All walk participants should park at the boat launch parking lot by 8:25 am, wearing shoes appropriate for rough ground. Don’t forget your camera!

As always, the Fall Celebration day will include food, but this year there’ll be food trucks with a variety of snacks and lunches for sale. Also served will be Black Bayou Lake Mud Pie, originated at 1997’s first Fall Celebration by the late Nell Odom, along with other sweets and lemonade provided free by FoBB members.

Founded in the summer of 1997, Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge is north of Monroe, just off Highway 165 on Richland Place. There is an identifying sign at Hwy. 165, about one mile north of CenturyLink.

The Refuge was established for wildlife conservation as well as environmental education and wildlife-dependent recreation. Fishing and hunting, as well as nature photography, hiking and wildlife observation are some of the activities enjoyed there.

The Friends of Black Bayou was involved in the Refuge’s development and its continuing successes, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. FoBB won the National Friends Group of the Year award in 2004.

I saw these lovely autumn leaves for sale by Louisiana Master Naturalist, artist and author Amy Ouchley in a gallery in Monroe recently. Find her on Facebook for details. https://www.facebook.com/amy.ouchley
I saw these lovely autumn leaves for sale by Louisiana Master Naturalist, artist and author Amy Ouchley in a gallery in Monroe recently. Find her on Facebook for details. https://www.facebook.com/amy.ouchley

Butterfly Blast at Allen Acres

If you or your kids like butterflies, moths and other native Louisiana wildlife, then you may want to attend the Allen Acres Butterfly Blast 2019!

The Butterfly Blast lasts for two days from Sept. 27th to 29th , 2019

Long-tailed Skipper, Urbanus proteus
Long-tailed Skipper, Urbanus proteus at Allen Acres. C. Paxton image.

Louisiana Master Naturalist, Botany Professor and entomologist Dr. Allen says “All are invited, especially the young folks, to Allen Acres to view the butterflies. You should see adults, caterpillars, chrysalis (cocoons), and eggs of several different kinds of butterflies from skippers to large swallowtails and there’ll be tagging of monarchs. Yes, we will capture, apply a tag, and then release some monarchs. Hopefully, some of the tagged ones will be recovered later and we can see where and how far they traveled from Allen Acres. (http://www.monarchwatch.org/tagmig/tag.htm) ”

There will be a butterfly count (bioblitz) at Allen Acres registered protected area led by Lepidopterist Craig Marks, author of Butterflies of Louisiana, on Sunday Sept 29.  It will begin at 9 am or so. This is part of the larger Butterfly Blast 2019 event.

Click on the button below to download the event brochure as a PDF

There are many other wild creatures of interest on the property including hummingbirds, anole lizards, dragonflies, spiders, praying mantids etc.

Furthermore if you can wait or come back just before dark, you will likely be treated to view one or more of the awesome hummingbird moths, also moths at the mercury vapor lights, spider eyes, fireflies etc.

One moment it’s calm and quiet, the next, quite suddenly the Sphinx moths arrive, as if by magic, and the sweet dusky air is full of the beating of their wings. Like hummingbirds they hover at trumpet-like flowers in the Allens’ Moon Garden and drink the sweet nectar.
C. Paxton image, ecotourist 2019.

9 AM till dark: Butterfly/hummingbird viewing and monarch tagging. On demand: Power Point “Butterflies from Scratch” or “Allen Acres Moths” by Dr. Charles Allen

7 pm or so till: hummingbird moth viewing: checkout the night life of moths, other insects, spiders, firefly counting, etc. On demand: Power Point “Butterflies from Scratch” or “Allen Acres Moths” by Charles Allen

BUTTERFLY BLAST Sep 27-Sep 29, 2019 at Allen Acres; 5070 Hwy 399; Pitkin, LA 70656 for more info call 337-328-2252 or email native@camtel.net

C.Paxton received no remuneration for this article, it contains his true, unsolicited opinions.

Sharks Attacked! Overview of Major Global Shark Traders, Catchers and Species.

Sharks for sale at a Market in Delhi, India. TRAFFIC photo and copyright.
Sharks and other fish for sale at a market in Delhi, India. TRAFFIC photo and copyright.

NEW REPORT: Almost 600,000 metric tonnes of sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras (Class Chondrichthyes) are caught each year by world’s 20 heaviest catchers. New report reveals need to improve monitoring of rapidly changing trade patterns.

A TRAFFIC study released today has identified the world’s top 20 shark and ray catchers and traders, who collectively account for some 80% of global reported catch averaged by year between 2007–2017.

Commercial and artisanal vessels from Indonesia, Spain, India, Mexico, and the United States topped the list of catchers during the studied time period, with a combined total of 333,952 metric tonnes (mt) caught on average each year.

Shark fin consumption in East Asia, traditionally eaten as a soup during celebratory occasions, is a key driver of trade. An average of 16,177 mt per year of shark fin products (with an average value of USD294 million per year) were reported as imported worldwide during 2000–2016.

TRAFFIC Press Release Sept. 11th 2019

The world’s four largest importers of shark fin accounted for 90% of average annual global imports of fins during the same period. Hong Kong SAR was the largest, importing an average of 9,069 mt of shark fin a year over this period, followed by Malaysia (average 2,556 mt/year), mainland China (1,868 mt/year), and Singapore (1,587 mt/year).

The main importers of shark and ray meat were Brazil, Spain, Uruguay, and Italy, which accounted for 57% of the average global imports of shark meat over the past decade.

Sharks are particularly vulnerable to over-fishing due to their slow growth, relatively late age of maturity, and low fecundity. Their broad distribution and migratory nature also pose increased difficulties when designing and implementing effective measures to prevent over-exploitation.

These challenges are evident from alarming declines observed across a broad range of species. Approximately 17% of shark and rays remain listed in the Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable categories of the IUCN’s Red List, with a further 13% listed as Near Threatened, and 47% as Data Deficient.

Only 23% of shark and ray species are considered to be of Least Concern – the lowest proportion of all vertebrate species.

“Urgent measures are required to combat the over-exploitation and lack of accurate catch and trade information of sharks and rays. As key high order predators, the continued wellbeing of these populations is essential to the overall health of our oceans. We need the main catchers to take responsibility and put in place monitoring and management measures to stop further declines of sharks and rays,” said Nicola Okes, co-author of the report.

Sharks, traders, catchers andspecies_TRAFFIC report cover
An overview of major shark traders, catchers, and species cover.

The release of An overview of major shark traders catchers and species follows the successful listing of Longfin and Shortfin Mako Sharks in CITES1 Appendix II at the 18th Conference of the Parties held in Geneva last month. The Proposals were accepted in response to population declines contributed to by over-exploitation and unsustainable trade.

A number of species protected under CITES regulations are assessed in the report, including Silky Shark Carcharhinus falciformis, Mobulid rays Mobulidae, and Blue Shark Prionace glauca. In 2017 alone, over 103,528 mt of Blue Shark were reported as caught.

Graceful rays swimming together
Trade in the graceful mobulid rays (Manta family) has almost doubled in the last decade. In 2016 5,436 metric tonnes of mobulid rays were reported caught globally. Read about Mobulid rays in the new TRAFFIC report

“We have seen a greater use of trade controls through CITES over the last decade as a response to declines in sharks and rays being overfished for trade. We would also like to see major importers scrutinising the sustainability of the shark and ray products they import using tools such as M-Risk, developed by TRAFFIC. Major importers need to take responsibility for their sustainability footprint as a result of importing products from species at high risk of overexploitation,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor on Fisheries Trade and Traceability.

A total of 153 shark species and a further 28 taxonomic groupings of shark, ray, and chimaera species were recorded as caught by international fisheries worldwide.

The majority of catches of sharks and rays are recorded in general shark groups and not to species level when reported to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).

This lack of species specificity in reporting is one of the many problems facing the conservation of sharks and rays as, without accurate information, it hampers identifying those species in decline and  whether management measures in place to restrict catches and trade are being adhered to.

“A key obstacle to the implementation of sustainable trade is the current lack of a universal traceability mechanism so we know how many sharks are being caught and whether those in trade are from sustainable and legal sources,”

“Shark product traceability systems, such as the one being trialed by TRAFFIC through a project entitled SharkTrack, alongside the amendment of WCO trade codes to include species specificity, would make significant inroads into safeguarding sharks and rays from the current threats they face.”

Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor on Fisheries Trade and Traceability.
School of Silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) swimming near Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands. Photo: Daniel Versteeg / WWF
Silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) swimming near Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands. Photo: Daniel Versteeg / WWF

Event Calendar Louisiana Nature

I’m pleased to share this information about forthcoming environmental education events that I received recently:

Sept 7  Cajun Prairie Society meeting, Eunice,

Dr. Joydeep at Kiroli Park
Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee’s workshop at Kiroli Park

Ecosystems & Restoration Ecology Workshop, with Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee hosted by LMNNe Sept. 14, 8:30 – 14:30 Contact

September 21 Haynesville Butterfly Festival. 

Dr. Allen’s classes are fun and informative!

For more info about LMNNe see Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Group

Sept 17-19  Plant ID class, Allen Acres

September 21 New Orleans Botanical Garden, New Orleans, Louisiana – Collecting Seed from Louisiana Native Plants by Marc Pastorek

Sept 24-26  Plant ID class Allen Acres

Allen Acres has wonderful butterflies!

Sept 27-29  Butterfly Blast, Allen Acres

Allen Acres is a paradise for wild butterflies and moths. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) are a massive and delightful variety that you can see there.

Sept 28  Folsom Fall Garden Festival

Sept 30-Oct 2  Graminoid plant id class, Allen Acres

Oct 3-6  Native Plant Society of Texas annual symposium  League City, Texas  https://npsot.org/wp/story/2019/11592/

Oct 5 New Orleans City Park Botanical Garden Fall Garden Show: Linda Auld, “BugLady” will speak about her ongoing “Geaux Grow Natives!” project followed by “BugLady’s Butterfly Summer” book signing.

Oct 8-10 Plant ID class, Allen Acres

Sims
Dr. Laura Sims

October 14, 2019  International Plant Propagators Society Southern Region Conference – Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Botanical Landscapes by way of Seed by Marc Pastorek

Oct 15-17 Plant ID class Allen Acres

Fungi, Oct. 26, 9 – 3

Fungi workshop by Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Group ! Our workshop leader will be mycologist, Dr. Laura Sims. So glad that La Tech added a mycologist to its faculty! Northeast Louisiana has an amazing diversity of fungi.

Nov 7  LNPS Fall Symposium at ULL Cade Farm, St. Martinville, Louisiana.

2020

Feb 7-9 LNPS annual meeting

Skin and Bones Unresolved— New Analysis Highlights Persistent Tiger Trafficking: Over 2 Per Week Seized!

 

With just 3,900 wild tigers (Panthera tigris) left, new analysis highlighting persistent tiger trafficking is especially serious, over two per week have been seized since the turn of the century.

Geneva, Switzerland, 21st August 2019— There has been no respite for the heavily hunted Tiger with an estimated average of over 120 individuals seized each year over the past 19 years, a new TRAFFIC analysis revealed today.

Overall, the analysis estimated that 2,359 Tigers were seized from 2000 to 2018 across 32 countries and territories globally, the haul is from 1,142 seizure incidents. The vast majority, around 95%, of these seizures were recorded in countries that are home to Tigers.

India, with the world’s largest wild Tiger population, remains the country with the highest overall number of seizures and the most Tigers seized, consistent with findings from previous years. It accounted for 40.5% of total incidents (463) and 26.5% of tigers seized (626).

Outside the Tiger’s range, a total of 56 seizures were recorded, of which Taiwan and Mexico reported the largest number of Tigers seized throughout the 19-year period: 39 and 13 Tigers from 7 and 13 seizure incidents respectively.

Skin and Bones Unresolved: An Analysis of Tiger Seizures from 2000-2018, the fourth report in TRAFFIC’s series on tiger trade, reinforces that tiger skins remain as the single most frequently seized tiger part—on average every year, almost 58 whole tiger skin equivalents were seized.

We have done these analyses four times now and year on year, its more bad news for tigers. The poaching and illegal trade in tigers has been a decades-long unresolved problem that has piled the pressure on wild Tiger strongholds,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s Director for Southeast Asia and an author of the report.

“This pernicious trafficking—evidenced by the continuously high number of whole skins, whole animals—both dead and alive—and bones is testament to the ongoing demand for tiger parts. The time for talking is over: words must be turned into action to prevent further tiger loss.”

Analysis of the more recent years of the data-set turned up a few surprising findings including a four-fold increase in the yearly average seizure incidents in Indonesia between 2015-2018 and an almost-doubling of the numbers of tigers involved as a result. Even now, Indonesia continues to see large tiger parts seizures including one earlier this month of at least a dozen tiger skins in an East Javan workshop that made traditional dance masks.[1]

The authors said a significant number of tigers from captive sources were seized during this period and that it underpinned the recurrent threat regarding the leakage of captive tigers into the illegal market.

The study found over half (58%) of the tigers seized in Thailand and 30% in Viet Nam were identified as originating from captive breeding facilities, with the largest proportion coming from a single seizure of 187 tigers in Thailand in 2016. Overall, a minimum of at least 366 tigers from known or suspected captive sources were seized over the assessed period.

“Seizures of tigers from captive facilities continue and serve as a stark reminder that such facilities seriously undermine conservation efforts to safeguard this species and provide opportunities for laundering and other illegal activities,” said Ramacandra Wong, a Senior Crime Analyst with TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

And when looking at available information on the reported trafficking routes, from just 231 incidents, almost 90% of Viet Nam’s reported tiger trafficking route implicated a supply of tigers from Lao PDR. Given that Lao PDR has no viable wild tiger population, the most plausible source of these tigers was from captive populations, the study reported.

Just days ahead of World Tiger Day on 29th July 2019, Vietnamese authorities seized seven frozen tiger carcasses from a vehicle in Ha Noi from a suspect believed to have smuggled tigers from Lao PDR for years.

The study was launched to coincide with discussions around the trade in tigers and other big cat species taking place between world governments meeting in Geneva for the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The authors call for the full and effective implementation of CITES Resolution Conf. 12.5 (Rev. CoP17) on Asian big cats (ABCs) and the associated CoP Decisions which recommend a slew of actions covering improved legislation, enforcement, record keeping and actions to prevent tiger parts and derivatives from captive breeding facilities from entering the illegal trade chain.


[1] https://gardaanimalia.com/toko-kerajinan-reog-digrebek-polhut-jual-kulit-harimau-dan-macan-tutul/?fbclid=IwAR2Y1B3GTzOc-Pjd_QTUXIyZPlqRi2Vp75bDRif9qGJMqS71asO_mPLXJqE

[2] https://www.nst.com.my/world/2019/07/507559/seven-dead-tigers-found-car-vietnam

Environmental Workshops: Restoration Ecology and Fungi

Would you like to learn about Ecosystems and Restoration ecology and fungi? Well, you can attend environmental education workshops this Fall on these subjects held by the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Group.

I’m sorry we missed the second round of LMNNe certification presentations, as the subjects were all very interesting and pertinent, but I’m thrilled to share information about the forthcoming workshops on Restoration Ecology and Fungi! I love Dr. Bette Kauffman’s image of a White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) running through the water at West Monroe’s Restoration Park!

Louisiana Master Naturalists - Northeast

Ecosystems & Restoration Ecology, Sept. 14, 8:30 – 2:30

IMGP3045 72-12Dr. Joydeep introduces us to our field work in Kiroli Park at our August 2018 workshop.

Once again, Dr. Joydeep Battacharjee of ULM will lead this workshop. We will begin in Kiroli Park, as we did last year, but he is going to look at trail options. Kiroli has several, so we might walk a different trail than we did last year.

The classroom portion of the workshop will again be in West Monroe. I don’t have a space reserved for that yet, but I’m looking.

Over our lunch break, we’ll move to Restoration Park and reconvene in the pavilion at the main entrance, 700 Downing Pines Road, for our afternoon field work.

It can still be pretty hot in September, and that’s why the 8:30 a.m. start. My apologies to those who drive from greater distances.

Fungi, Oct. 26…

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Destination Kisatchie National Forest—Louisiana Master Naturalists’ Northeast Plants Workshop 2019 a Great Success!

Dr. Charles Allen instructing our LMNNe Plants workshop

I was so excited about attending the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Plants Workshop 2019 that I woke up about three hours before dawn! No wonder, our expert botanist for the workshop, Dr. Charles Allen is the State’s leading botanist, and there’s simply no better guide to Louisiana’s wild plants. Last year the information hit me like a flood, I missed quite a lot by being at the back and/or taking pictures and being inattentive. This year my wife and I resolved to stick to the main man like glue and absorb as much botanical knowledge as we possibly could. She’d take notes and I’d photograph the plants.The Kisatchie National Forest near Georgetown in Louisiana, southeastern USA is about as rich in arboreal biodiversity as you can get in North America. This was our second visit to this particular area, we camped the first time and thrilled to the fireflies and night music of the forest, crickets, frogs, bats, Chuck-wills-widow and Barred owls. We used a bat detector to slow down the ultrasonic frequency of the bat’s sonar to render it audible.

Kisatchie National Forest after dawn in late April. Wonderful camping conditions.
Kisatchie National Forest after dawn in late April. Wonderful camping conditions.

Are plants sensitive?

The one pictured above certainly is. It is a sensitive Mimosa plant that will retract its leaves when touched.

The workshop began with an essential introduction to herbaceous and woody plants with the sort of insights that come from a life-time of studying them. Straight to the point, we were taught the defining characteristics that aid one in field identification, how to home in on the identity of a plant by using it’s defining characteristics. This year I got so much more out of the class, I think last year my base knowledge was nowhere near as good and the information came at me so thick and fast that it was hard for me to process in time.

I heartily recommend a repeat attendance, not just because you’ll consolidate your learning, but also because we encountered a whole new set of trees and herbaceous perennials this time. It was a fantastic day out and we learned a lot as well as walking in some of Louisiana’s most beautiful natural woodland. Alongside the the scientific knowledge, the professor is often joking and quipping about plants in a very jolly and memorable fashion, which I shan’t relate here, because I wouldn’t want to steal his thunder. All I’ll say is you won’t regret signing up for one of Dr. Allen’s various plant courses. Next year, be sure to sign up for the LMNE Plants Workshop because it really is a super day out. To learn your plants you simply cannot beat walking with an expert botanist like Doctor Allen.

NB The Allens also run a fantastic eco-lodge called Allen Acres, near Pitkin and you can stay there and have a great ecotourism B&B experience for less money than we’ve spent in non-descript chain motels.

Just in case any reader might think plants aren’t interesting, bear in mind that they have been on Earth for about a billion years and have thus had time to co-evolve into a huge variety of shapes, structures and life-styles. The plant Kingdom numbers the tallest, largest and the oldest living organisms. They have shaped the very world we live in, produced most of our atmospheric oxygen, contributed about 3/4 of our medicines, they moderate our climate and are the basis of the terrestrial food pyramid.

You can view some photographs of the plants that we encountered on iNaturalist here. I’ll add a few more over time and add the link to the LMNE BIOBLITZ HERE.

This beautiful female Swamp Darner dragonfly was drawn to Dr. Bette Kauffman, who so loves Odonates.

“We Need To Nurture Nature And Work With It.” World Celebrates Global Biodiversity Day, May 22, 2019

Louisiana Black Bear, Ursus americanus luteolus, in Tensas River Wildlife Management Area. Global Biodiversity Day 2019 is themed on "Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health".
Louisiana Black Bear, Ursus americanus luteolus, in Tensas River Wildlife Management Area.
Global Biodiversity Day 2019 is themed on “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health”.
Farmers in this refuge area allow wildlife to eat about one third of their crops,
Stable climate, healthy soil, water, sunlight and pollinators are the basic ingredients for our life support. We must nurture nature, not squander natural resources.
A honey bee (Apis mellifera) on wild Bidens flowers near Cheniere Lake, Louisiana. Stable climate, healthy soil, water, sunlight and pollinators are the basic ingredients for our life support. We must nurture nature, not squander natural resources.

Today the world celebrates Global Biodiversity Day and I do so in a mood of calm resolve to do what I can to help. Global Biodiversity Day 2019 is themed on “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health”. I’ve just watched Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator speak candidly on video about how badly human activity has destabilized the balance of nature with our population now exceeding 7 billion, that’s over twice what it was when Astronauts first walked on the Moon. Now about a million species (approximately 1 in 8) are facing extinction because of the scale, character and spatial distribution of destructive human activity systems.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/upSPuxtmZZE

The key drivers of this destruction are:

  • land use changes,
  • climate change,
  • pollution,
  • invasive species.

According to a new Global Assessment report from the IBPES, “The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.”

In his speech lasting just under three minutes, Steiner encapsulates the key issue of our time, Biodiversity Crisis, saying:

“We are undermining the very infrastructure on which our modern world and our lives depend. Agricultural production today is the largest driver of deforestation and climate change.”

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator

Quoting from the new IPBES report on biodiversity Steiner goes on to say that though the situation is very serious, there are 3.2 billion people at risk and we’ve lost 90% of crop diversity since 1900 and now 60% of mammal biomass is comprised of our domestic animals, the situation is not hopeless. He says, we can learn from “traditional, indigenous and scientific knowledge” and transform our behavior to “nurture nature and work with it.”

Steiner points out that:

“The loss of diverse diets is directly linked to diseases and health risks. If we lose the basic ingredients for farming there will be no way to feed the projected 9.8 billion people by the year 2050. Currently one third of the food produced goes to waste, so there is actually no need to cut down more forest right now… Production does not have to mean destruction.”

UNDP Video

So, there we have it! There’s hope if we can live in better harmony with nature. Permaculture principles are the way forward! I think we can be less wasteful and more conservative. I’ll try to be.

Also check out UNDP’s Midori Paxton’s article on Impakter here for some more information on biodiversity. extinction, food, climate and inequality.

Midori is Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity at the UNDP’s – Global Environmental Finance Unit’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. In the above linked article she says:

“Our current ecological meltdown is inextricably intertwined with many “other crises” — for example inequality and climate change. The challenge of equal access to food with sufficient nutrition by the increasing global population, projected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, is one good illustration of how loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, inequality and climate crisis cannot be viewed and addressed as issues apart. “

Impakter

Even here in the USA there’s an interesting model of farming alongside nature at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge between Delhi and Tallulah in Northeast Louisiana. Here the farmers set aside 30% of their crops for wildlife such as Louisiana Black Bear, Ursus americanus luteolus, pictured below scavenging corn after harvest. A great number of other creatures benefit too. There are also rice fields that are frequented by migratory water fowl, and some fields are flooded in wintertime for them.

Two adult male Louisiana Black Bears enjoying maize corn kernels in a field adjacent to the wonderful Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Northeast Louisiana. Here farmers tolerate indigenous wildlife and it is one of the best places to see Louisiana Black Bears, Wild Turkeys, White-tailed Deer and American Alligators. C. Paxton image and copyright.

See the linked pages below for information pertinent to 2019 Biodiversity Day!

https://www.cbd.int/idb/2019

https://www.cbd.int/events/

https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/world-biodiversity-day/

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