Marine Life Center

Coastal Plants Production Facility

The Gulf Coast Marine Life Center’s Coastal Plant Production Facility will be a vital component to the center’s Gulf of Mexico habitat restoration goals. Researchers from our partner universities, Louisiana State University and University of New Hampshire, are national leaders in coastal plant restoration. Both universities have extensive experience propagating native herbaceous and woody plants for use in coastal wetland restoration, providing marsh grass species to many salt marsh restoration projects, and developing mangrove nurseries to aid habitat restoration initiatives. Partnering with such organizations, which are currently running many successful coastal plant restoration projects, will enable the GCMLC to bring the best native plant specimens, techniques, and technologies to the GOM for an extensive restoration effort.

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Red Mangrove

The Gulf of Mexico contains over half of the United States’ mainland coastal areas, and every year approximately 24-39 square miles of these coastal wetlands are lost. At the current rate of erosion, depreciation of coastal wetlands has the potential of moving the Gulf Coast shoreline inland over 30 miles in some areas, threatening innumerable natural communities and the many species they contain. Coastal plant communities provide significant habitat and physical structure critical to healthy coastal ecosystems including storm protection, sediment stabilization, and filtration of pollutants from commercial, residential, and agricultural land runoff. Over 90% of Gulf of Mexico’s fishery landings consist of marine species that depend on these coastal plant wetlands and estuaries at some point in their life cycle, yet negative effects on the carrying capacity of these habitats are already being observed. Many other marine species, such as invertebrates and marine mammals, also rely on coastal plant wetlands for habitat, protection, and food. Furthermore, millions of waterfowl and migratory birds, including endangered and threatened species, seek shelter in this coastal plant wetland habitat during winter months and risk being displaced as space becomes a limiting factor. If not rectified, this pattern will continue to adversely affect soil and water quality, wildlife resilience, coastal infrastructure, and the economy.

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Heron and Coastal Grass

The Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is rich in diversity and home to many different plant species. Throughout the GCMLC’s restoration efforts, the preservation of native species and genetic diversity is a vital element of the habitat restoration programs. Thus, all species harvested at the GCMLC for coastal restoration will be native to the GOM region.

Plant Species:

  • Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
  • Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans)
  • Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
  • Black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus)
  • Various other native plants

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Red Mangrove Roots

The environmental restoration and sustainability of the Gulf Coast is the Center’s focal point. The hatchery facilities will utilize state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture systems that recycle water by circulating it through filters rather than relying on dumping wastewater into the environment. The filtered out nutrients in the fish waste will then be used to feed the plants in the Coastal Plants Production Facility. Where possible, water circulated through the hatchery will pass directly through the Coastal Plant Production Facility to remove fish waste rather than relying on filtration and bacterial fixation of waste products. By doing so, the Center itself will highlight multiple-use aquaponics systems to showcase the use of natural solutions to challenges presented by aquaculture. Aquaponics uses animal waste as a source of fertilizer for plant growth operations. By turning waste into a valuable resource, environmental sustainability is emphasized throughout the Gulf Coast Marine Life Center’s operations.