Threats to Louisiana’s Coast

Louisiana's Coast

Threats to Louisiana’s Coast

Louisiana’s coast is already facing many threats like drowning from rising seas, hits from hurricanes, poisoning from oil spills, and now attacks from insects. A pest known as a Scale appears to be killing off reeds that bind the coast together, which has caused land loss, endangered oil wells, and ruined fishing grounds.

Vast strands of marsh grass have been transformed into empty mudflats and open water because of a plague of foreign insects. The invaders have a hunger for Roseau cane, a tall and hardy reed that binds together some of Louisiana’s most delicate stretched of coastline. The coast disappears at a rapid rate already, about 10 square miles a year, and Roseau serves as a living, growing barricade against land loss.

Roseau is known for its soil-building prowess and is salt-water tolerant. About 60% of the Delta’s National Wildlife Refuge mass lies in its roots. The plant not only strengthens land but also builds it as the roots raise the soil.

First observed in 2016, no one is sure how or when the insect arrived and how to stop it. In April scientists were able to identify the pest as a Nipponaclerda biwakoensis, or a Scale. About the size of a grain of rice, the insect gets its name from its shells resemblance to a fish scale. The scale works its way into Roseau stalks and taps the sap, weakening the plant until it dies. It has now spread over the lower Mississippi River Delta consuming everything in its path, reversing decades of coastal restoration. 

An estimate from Louisiana State University scientists put the damage at about 225,000 acres. They are working on a way to stop the pests, but they lack information about the scale. Right now, the scale has no dedicated program or government agency tasked with stopping it.

Learn more about Marsh Buggies’ efforts to restore the wetlands of Louisiana here. 

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