The Barataria Preserve unit of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in wetlands of the upper Barataria-Terrebonne estuary near New Orleans, LA and subject to perturbations that affect aquatic resources. A study of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) was conducted to determine community composition, distribution, and abundance. Seven native species—Cabomba caroliniana, Ceratophyllum demersum, Heteranthera dubia, Najas guadalupensis, Potamogeton pusillus, Vallisneria americana, and Zannichellia palustris—and three exotic species—Egeria densa, Hydrilla verticillata, and Myriophyllum spicatum—were present. The highly invasive, exotic, floating fern Salvinia molesta was also present. The Preserve is affected by a coastal restoration project designed to return Mississippi River flow to the upper Barataria Estuary. Preserve SAV did not conform to the general estuarine management paradigm of decline and loss with nutrient introductions. Instead, freshwater dominated the Preserve, and sufficient light was present to support robust SAV growth in ponds, canals, and Lake Cataouatche. Native and exotic species formed large surface mats that clogged waterways. Vallisneria americana may be decreasing due to the increase in nuisance SAV and floating plants.
This study is the first of its kind for any wetland habitat in the states of the Northern Gulf Coast and therefore will be an important baseline to future studies both generally and specifically for the Preserve as Louisiana's coastal wetland waterways experience change brought on by the general coastal wetland loss from sea level rise and efforts to restore the wetlands.