It Ain’t Easy Being a Barrier Island in the Gulf

Hurricanes often have dramatic effects on barrier islands, and the impact of 2008’s Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island, Texas was no exception. Yet the hurricane left in its wake a keen awareness of the need to address the consequences of such storms and their dramatic effects on the island. It also catalyzed a master planning effort to guide the redevelopment, management, protection and restoration of Galveston Island State Park, a treasured natural and recreational resource that is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the south and West Bay of Galveston Bay to the north. Despite being surrounded by developed land, this 2,000-acre park is home to a variety of natural habitats, including beach and dunes, coastal strand prairie, tidal marsh and seagrass beds.

Biohabitats is a key member of the planning team, which is being led by MESA of Dallas, TX. The plan, which is being produced for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, looks out on a 50-year horizon, addressing not only hurricanes, land use, and infrastructure needs, but also projected sea level rise and changes. After conducting an inventory and assessment of the park’s natural resources, we performed predictive modeling to project the impacts of sea level rise on the landscape, and how habitats may shift accordingly. Next steps include using this information to develop a plan to guide the restoration and management of park habitats. We applaud the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for striving to be a leader in implementing effective natural resources conservation while providing valued outdoor recreation.

Rare Opportunity to Witness Instant Gratification in Gulf Coast Marsh Restoration

In the last issue of Leaf Litter, we reported that we had begun work to restore ecological health to a landscape ravaged by decades-old canals in Louisiana’s Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. Built to facilitate resource exploration and extraction, these canals dramatically altered the hydrology and ecology of a once-healthy marsh system. Not only did the canals diminish the marsh’s ability to rebuild and sustain itself, but spoil mounds created by their excavation offered the ideal elevation and conditions for the invasive Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum). Our goal was to restore historic hydrology and reduce infestation of Chinese tallow along miles of canals. Our work began in May and was completed by mid-July, before hurricane season. We’re delighted to report that wetland vegetation has already colonized much of this landscape. It is not often in ecosystem restoration that we get to witness such a dramatic and rapid transformation. If you question the resilience of Gulf coast wetlands, just take a look at these pictures.

Floating Wetlands Turning Heads

Urban waterfronts along Baltimore’s Harbor and Philadelphia’s Central Delaware River are looking a bit greener these days. This past spring, as part of our work on the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, we worked with students from Baltimore City Schools to construct floating wetlands to place in the

City’s Inner Harbor. With plastic bottles removed from the Harbor providing their flotation, the wetlands serve to improve water quality, provide habitat, and present a unique tool with which to educate people throughout the watershed how their actions impact the Harbor and Chesapeake Bay. This summer, a volunteer kayak flotilla transported the wetlands to their new, highly visible home near Baltimore’s popular Harborplace, where they have garnered quite a bit of media coverage and stimulated a great deal of curiosity from passersby. But humans are not the only species drawn to these unique floating patches of green. Crabs, fish and waterfowl have already begun to call them home.

As part of our efforts to help the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) and the Philadelphia Horticultural Society create an urban park that restores ecology and public access to a neglected riverfront, we developed floating wetlands for the City’s Pier 53. The wetlands, which we assembled with community volunteers, use trash (plastic bottles) as a floatation device and include a palette of native wetland plants. These plants are clearly happy in their floating home. On a recent visit, we spied freshwater cordgrass that is seeding, cardinal flower in bloom, and marsh mallow reaching over four feet tall!

Tackling A Bear In Northeast Ohio

When the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) wanted to restore approximately 1,600 linear feet of Bear Creek in the City of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, they turned to Biohabitats. The channelized creek is severely incised and completely disconnected from its floodplain. The folks in our Great Lakes bioregion office are hard at work developing restoration concepts that will not only maximize ecological benefit and minimize disturbance, but also inspire ongoing stewardship and education within the Warrensville Heights City School District. To help the CCBH improve Bear Creek’s water quality and habitat, dissipate stream energy, minimize erosion, protect infrastructure and provide innovative stormwater management, we are taking a two-pronged approach. On the Upper Reach, we are focusing on increasing channel stability and capacity and improving the riparian buffer.


Later this week, you’ll find Biohabitats president Keith Bowers, along with Ivette Bolender and Jennifer Zielinski from our Great Lakes Bioregion office at the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition’s 6th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference, in Buffalo, NY. As the sponsor the conference’s Poster Showcase Happy Hour on Sept. 23, we can’t wait to swap Great Lakes restoration success stories and give away a $150 gift certificate to a native plant nursery to the first attendee who collects all three of our ecological restoration trading cards!

Also this week, from Sept. 21-24, Mike Lighthiser from our Southern Rocky Mountain Bioregion office will be in Snowmass Village, CO attending the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers Annual Conference.

Catch a sneak peek at Freshkills Park in NYC on October 3. Senior Ecologist Terry Doss will give a tour of the North Park Wetland Restoration we designed and hope to soon construct.

On October 5-7, Senior Ecologist Laura Backus, from our Southern Rocky Mountain Bioregion office, will address attendees of the 2010 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds conference on the topic of leveraging agency restoration projects through the use of volunteers. Her joint presentation with John Giordanengo of Wildlands Restoration Volunteers is entitled, “How to Involve the community in riparian Restoration Work.”

Biohabitats will have a strong showing-and lots to share-at the 2010 AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference, November 1-4 in Philadelphia. Landscape architect Jennifer Dowdell will present “Sustainability and Campus Planning.” Fluvial geomorphologist Ellen McClure will present “Stream Restoration Feasibility and Design at Cobbs Creek in Philadelphia,” and senior ecologist Ed Morgereth will share “Revitalization of the Central Delaware River Waterfront: A Focus on Ecology, Access & Stewardship at Pier 53.”

We’re psyched that Baltimore is host to this year’s Urban Waterfronts 2010 Conference, The conference, centered around a theme of “The City Resurgent,” will take place November 4-6.

Biohabitats is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s Restore America’s Estuaries Conference, which will take place November 11-13 in Galveston Island, TX. The theme of the conference is Preparing for Climate Change, and Biohabitats senior environmental scientist, Dr. Peter May, and senior ecologists Terry Doss and Ed Morgereth will be on hand to present, discuss and share highly relevant case studies and information.

Hey y’all, don’t miss the biennial Stream Restoration in the Southeast Conference in Raleigh, NC from November 15-18. This event is a terrific opportunity to share ideas and lessons learned in stream restoration planning, design, construction, and evaluation. For example, Biohabitats environmental scientist Suzanne Hoehne will co-present a case study about the restoration of Terry’s Branch in Kentucky.


Landscape architect Michael Spina has a keen eye for the useful details in life that are often discounted by others. In fact, his home in New York is furnished almost entirely with items others have discarded. This resourcefulness, along with his strong environmental ethic, makes Michael a very welcome, new member of the Biohabitats team. Michael recently completed his MLA at the City College of New York, where he focused on landscape restoration and urban ecology. He has worked in both private and public sectors, most recently as an intern in New York City’s Department of City Planning and Partnership for Parks. We can’t wait to see Michael put his education and experience to work in our Hudson River Bioregion office.

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