Shoreline stabilization and erosion control are major concerns of managers in coastal environments. Loss of sediments due to tropical wind and wave activity and shoreline losses related to sea level rise are often mitigated by the installation of hardened structures such as seawalls, bulkheads, and rip-rap piles. As a demonstration of an environmentally friendly and low cost alternative to these traditional shoreline stabilization methods, we have installed a living shoreline restoration project at the Bayou Heron boat ramp. This project makes use of natural coconut husk fibers (coir) in the form of compacted logs. These logs, backfilled with sand and planted with native black needle rush (Juncus roemerianus), provide structure and support to stabilize and rebuild the shoreline. Our installation was accomplished with the help of students from Castlen Elementary School in Grand Bay, AL.
Fire is a natural, ecological process that shapes the natural communities within Grand Bay NERR. Historically, fires caused by lightning strikes and human activities burned thousands of acres along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico each year. The habitat types affected by these fires included upland longleaf pine forests, wet pine savannas, wet pine flatwoods, and marshes. Fires, occurring every 2-5 years, were a relatively common event in these habitats. These frequent fires provided a variety of unique and diverse terrestrial and aquatic plant communities that supported many different species of wildlife communities.
In the absence of natural fires, prescribed fire provides a valuable and necessary management tool to maintain and restore the area’s diverse native plant and animal communities. Prescribed fire takes the place of natural fire in sustaining ecosystem functions, improving habitat conditions for wildlife, and reducing hazardous accumulations of fuels. Without fire, the open savanna would be lost to vegetative succession.
Invasive Species Control
Controlling invasive species at Grand Bay NERR is an integral part of the Reserve’s habitat restoration initiative. Without proper management, invasive species will continue to spread and displace native species through competition for sunlight and nutrients. There are three methods for control and management of invasive species at Grand Bay NERR. Mechanical clearing methods such as mowing, discing, and chain-sawing are used in the fight against invasives. Another treatment type is through the use of chemical (herbicide) applications. Chemical treatments include; hack and squirt, cut-stump painting or spraying, and foliar spraying. Finally, when conditions permit, prescribed fire may be utilized to control and eradicate invasive species.
Fuel Reduction and Fire Line Construction
Many of the upland habitats on the Reserve suffer from degradation due to fire exclusion. In order to facilitate the reintroduction of fire into these habitats, we have initiated several projects aimed at reducing fuel loads and providing for fire control corridors adjacent to private in-holdings. These projects are accomplished through the use of mechanical clearing or mulching with heavy machinery. By reducing heavy fuel loadings and increasing fuel surface area through mulching, fire can more effectively and safely be used to manage critical habitats on the Reserve.