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Louisiana Cypress Hammock

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Louisiana is losing hundreds of acres annually to coastal erosion due to lack of river deposits, storms, and slow sea level rise. Flood control efforts from decades ago have slowed the deposits of mud and gravel such that the creeping sea level rise has overcome the rate of mud deposition. Efforts are underway to return the flood deposits. Even if successful the natural deposition is being overwhelmed by slow but continuous sea level rise. One of the possible solutions to stop the loss of land is the development of cypress hammocks along all the fresh water and near the brackish bodies of water in south Louisiana. The bald cypress establishes massive root systems that binds the river flood deposits creating natural levees along rivers and streams and hammocks in areas away from the flowing water but subject to flooding. These root systems and associated knees may constitute up to 50% of the soil volume. The bald cypress tolerates brackish water and periodic flooding by sea water as long as the flooding is short duration. The tree is long lived and capable of withstanding the hurricanes that frequent the area. The tree enjoys a positive ph environment and rapid growth when the ph is greater than 7.2. Hammocks and levees may require periodic liming to keep the ph up. Composting leaf litter and vegetation of the delta environment creates acid conditions which must be countered with liming. In communities on the water front, additional living space can be made by supplemental sand and gravel emplacement around the knees of the more mature trees. The knees continue to grow vertically until well above the extreme flood level. The knee growth can cause infrastructure problems for water and sewer pipes, but because most communities are built several feet above water level, long term problems are remedied by cutting the top off the knee. Cutting straight across the knee does not harm the tree as long as the root system that interconnects the numerous knees is nor severed. Roads would have to be elevated well above the flood level to prevent the knees from forcing up the road pavement.

This cypress barrier would stop the loss of land in southern Louisiana and acts to store excess carbon. A cypress tree may grow for 100 years, stand as a mature tree for another 100 years. spend another 100 years in decline , stand as a rot proof snag for another 100 years, and finally fall in the oxygen free mud where the log will be preserved for another 100 years. Cypress lumber is highly valued.


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