Education > Classroom

Web Quest: Louisiana Wetlands


Being a good steward of our land and waterways provides our state with the promise that we will have beautiful and healthy resources for years to come. It takes everybody doing their part to protect our environment. In this webquest, you will become an active investigator looking for why and how we should protect coastal wetlands.

shrimp boat

Part I: Determining our role.

Brainstorm with your group members about the following questions. Then, use classroom resources to answer them.

Brainstorming Questions: Work with your group to answer the following questions. Be sure to talk about what you already know.

    What do environmental scientists do?

    How can we all be citizen scientists?

    Why are wetlands important?

Researching answers: Now that your group has discussed the questions, use outside sources to research the answers. See how your brainstorming answers above align to the answers you found during your research.

    What do environmental scientists do?

    How can we all be citizen scientists?

    Why are wetlands important?

Part II: Why is Our State Worth Protecting?

A. Historical impacts:

(MS-LS2-4, MS-ESS3-4, MS-ESS3-4)

On April 20, 2010, there was a significant event that impacted wetlands and the organisms that live there. Use your research skills to learn more about this catastrophic event. Use the questions to explore the article. While investigating, think about how many abiotic and biotic factors were impacted.

Resource: WaterMarks: Lessons from the Disaster - A Decade of Recovery Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and The Great Marsh Dilemma (931 KB, PDF)

1. After reading the first article,The Gulf, 10 Years after the Oil Spill make a flowchart that shows how the events of the oil spill occurred.

2. Create an image of how you think the area looked before the oil spill. Then, create an image of how the area looked after the oil spill. Be sure to include the effects of the spill on organisms, land, plants, and the Gulf of Mexico.

3. If you were to create a public service announcement from the birds’ perspectives of the affected region, what would your creative slogan be?

4. How does this article help you understand why our state is worth protecting?

5. How can an environmental tragedy impact the biodiversity of a region?

B. Ecology and Economy

(MS-LS2-1, MS-LS2-2, MS-LS2-3, MS-LS2-4, MS-LS2-5, MS-ESS2-2)

Fort Pike

Introduction: Ecology is the study of how abiotic and biotic factors interact within an ecosystem. Abiotic factors are non-living elements, and biotic factors are living things. Within healthy wetlands, the balance of components supports local economies across the Gulf Coast. Use the following articles to explore how ecological health and economy are often closely linked.

Resource: WaterMarks 55 - Species Important to the Economy, to Recreation, to Culture, to Beauty

Article: Louisiana’s Fisheries Respond to Changing Conditions in the Wetlands
  1. Read pages 3 - 6. Look for the following terms as you read. Then, define each term by discussing the context clues with your group. Finally, check in with your teacher about the definitions your group created.
    a. estuarinee. organic materials
    b. erosionf. food web
    c. salinitiesg. fragmentation
    d. diversityh. hydrologic flow

  2. Compare and contrast salt marshes and brackish marshes. Be sure to list at least 3 organisms found in each region.

  3. Now that you know more about salt marshes and brackish marshes, look for similarities and differences in intermediate marshes and freshwater marshes. List at least 3 organisms found in each region.

  4. Now that you have learned about the four types of marshes, use what you learned to rank them by salinity levels. Put the names on the scale from lowest to highest.
    salinity chart

  5. Why do you think salt marshes, brackish marshes, intermediate marshes, and freshwater marshes are worth protecting?

  6. How is biodiversity important to marsh regions?

  7. Design a food web that shows how organisms within one type of marsh ecosystem interact. Include at least three producers, two primary consumers, and one secondary consumer. You may wish to enhance your food web by including a top-level predator. Be sure to include images and descriptions of each organism. Then, share your food web with your classmates to explore the diversity of the organisms.

Article: Oysters and Crabs: Inhabitants Essential to Louisiana’s Ecology and Economy
MS-LS2-3, MS-LS2-5, MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4

  1. The article starts with a quote from Earl Melancon. He said, “Oysters are a barometer of how well the estuarine ecosystem is working.” After reading pages 7 and 8, write two original sentences explaining what he meant by this statement.

  2. Imagine you were the boss of a wetlands company that was looking to employ 10 oysters. What would the job title and job description be for the future employees? You need to list at least 5 criteria necessary for employment. To answer this question you should carefully consider what role oysters play in estuaries. You must also think about what estuaries would be like if oysters were not available.

  3. Research and discuss one of the coastal restoration projects that could positively impact oyster populations. Talk about possible benefits and drawbacks that could occur.

  4. Why are Louisiana blue crabs a species worth protecting? Be sure to read through page 10 before answering.

  5. On page 10, the word anthropogenic is used.
    1. What does this word mean?
    2. What impacts have been caused by anthropogenic changes in coastal wetlands?
    3. Can you think of other anthropogenic effects on the environment?

  6. Bonus: Have you ever had Louisiana oysters or crabs for dinner? What is your favorite dish? Ask a relative or friend for a recipe for your special meal. Share it with your classmates.

C. Migration in the Marshes

MS-LS2-1, MS-LS2-2, MS-LS2-5, MS-ESS3-3

Introduction: Louisiana coastal regions are known for their healthy bird populations. The diversity of native birds brings bird-lovers from all over the world. In order to understand the intricate balance of the habitats and the Louisiana bird species, listen to episode three of the Coastal Connection Podcast. Patti Holland, a retired US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who worked extensively in Louisiana's coastal zone on bird mitigation during restoration projects, speaks about her experience and knowledge about migration in the marshes.

  1. According to the podcast, what is the Mississippi flyway?
    • Time 5:10: Later in the podcast, the narrator discusses the states that are part of this path. List at least 3 of them.
    • Use a map of the United States to identify where the Mississippi flyway is. On a blank map provided by your teacher, shade the states and provinces that are included.
      • What do you notice about the Mississippi flyway?
      • Research to find what types of birds use this route. List at least 3 types of birds.

  2. Time 3:02: Patti Holland spoke about migratory abatement plans. What are the purposes of these activities? Listen for at least four actions.

  3. Time 6:36: How do bird management, bird protection, and habitat regulation help Louisiana bird populations and diversity?

  4. The podcast discussed Wilson plovers, snowy plovers, and least terns as major coastal nesters. Although the piping plover is not a nesting Louisiana bird, it is considered endangered. Locate images of these birds so you can identify them on your next visit to the coastal regions.

  5. Time 9:38: Why is Ms. Patti Holland worried about losing fresh swamps? What parts of the fresh swamps are particularly delicate?

  6. What is a riparian habitat and why would it be of interest when examining Louisiana bird populations?

  7. Time 13:25: In ten words or less, describe the purpose of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

  8. What are three Louisiana native migratory birds?

  9. Discuss the difference in native and non-native species.

  10. Ms. Holland discussed the increase in numbers of Roseate spoonbills and Black-bellied whistling ducks in this region. How would climate change adjust the range of these birds?

  11. Time 30:04: If you are a coastal land owner, how could you encourage bird sanctuaries?

  12. Use outside resources to define an ecological niche.
    • How could an organism’s niche play a role in diversity for that region?

  13. The podcast discussed the sale and use of duck stamps.
    • What are duck stamps used for? (You will need outside resources for this question.)
    • Why did Ms. Holland say the duck stamps were helpful for our state?
    • Research what this year’s duck stamp looks like. Then, design your own version for future years.

  14. What can you do to invite birds to your own backyard? Discuss 3 options.
    • Which one would you most likely use at home. Why?

  15. Why do you think birds help make Louisiana worth protecting?

D. What is CWPPRA

CWPPRA is an acronym. Acronyms are abbreviations that represent whole words. For example, the acronym NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Predict what CWPPRA stands for. (Hint: W = wetlands)

As you look over pages 3 -10 in the Watermarks document, consider the following questions:
  1. How does the saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work” apply to the people that contribute to the efforts of CWPPRA?

  2. Why do you think it is important that a task force is divided into smaller working groups?
    • Give an example of a project you worked on where the jobs were divided up.
    • Oftentimes, when you have many people working towards a single goal, there ends up being diverse viewpoints. How can that diversity help the project?
    • How can those differing viewpoints be challenging sometimes?

E. Louisiana Coastal Land Loss

MSLS2-1, MS-LS2-4, MS-LS2-5, MS-ESS2-2, MS-ESS3-2

The Louisiana coast is subject to subsidence, rising sea levels, hurricane destruction, saltwater intrusion, and human impact. The fertile and vulnerable coast is disappearing at alarming rates. Explore the following animations and videos to learn more about this disturbing trend.

Land Loss Animations

  1. Click on one of the regions of Louisiana's CWPPRA basins. Observe the changes in the land-water interactions. Then, describe the overall difference from the beginning of the animation to the end.
      What do you think may be causing these changes?

  2. Repeat the process from step 1 three more times using different basins.

  3. After looking at four Louisiana basins, predict what all of these regions will look like in 2050.

Scroll down the page to the Louisiana Coastal Land Loss Simulation 1932 -2010 video. After watching it, complete the following questions:

  1. Coastal Louisiana wetlands contain over __________ of the coastal marshes.

  2. Why is Louisiana particularly vulnerable to coastal land loss?

  3. The video used the phrase “One of America’s Greatest Treasures” to describe Louisiana. Give five reasons why this expression is true.

  4. What was the wetland loss average from 1985 - 2010?
    • What analogy was used to describe this loss?
    • Does this value seem shocking to you?
    • How does one prevent this from continuing to happen?

  5. What is a delta?
    • Why are deltas described as “dynamic”?
    • How does this characteristic make deltas particularly important to coastal regions?
    • What are four challenges to the Mississippi delta?
    • Research a historical map of the Mississippi delta. Identify how the delta has changed from approximately 5,000 years ago to now.

Scroll down the page to the Louisiana Coastal Land Loss Simulation 1932 -2050 video. After watching it, complete the following questions:

  1. How much land was lost from Louisiana coasts from 1932 - 2000?

  2. Why are computer simulations important in researching the future of our state’s coastal wetlands?

  3. Use the information in the video to learn about how the coastal regions of Louisiana have changed (and continue to change) over time.
    Louisiana Region
    Description of Change Over Time
    Chenier Plain
    Deltaic plain
    Atchafalaya Basin
    Lower Bayou Lafourche
    Port Fourchon

  4. How do wetlands protect citizens of Louisiana?

  5. What challenges will Louisiana citizens face if wetland loss continues?

  6. Why would wetland loss be considered a threat to biodiversity?

  7. F. Pledge for protection.

    While researching the ecology, biodiversity, history, and predicted outcomes of Louisiana wetlands, you learned data that can help you be an active and informed citizen scientist. The future of the Louisiana coastal wetlands need to be protected, and it takes people like you to make that happen. Please consider taking a pledge to be a good steward of our resources. Develop your own personal statement of environmental stewardship. After you are finished, print it out and hang it where you and your family can honor your commitment.

    Pledge Form

About This Site

The Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act Program web site contains information and links relating to coastal restoration projects in coastal Louisiana. This site is funded by CWPPRA and is maintained by the USGS National Wetlands Research Center.