Bayou-Diversity

Monday at 9 a.m., Tuesday at 6:45 a.m. and Thursday at 1 p.m.

Kelby Ouchley, former manager of Black Bayou Lake and other area National Wildlife Refuges, provides expert insight into the flora and fauna of Louisiana. Each week, he brings awareness of conservation ethics and education about what makes our area special -- and worth preserving.

Archived editions of Bayou-Diversity (December 2014 and older) can be found here.

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Bayou Boats

May 23, 2016

For as long as humans have dwelled on our bayou-laced landscape, boats have drifted among the placid waters.  Local Native Americans built watercraft for 400 generations before European immigrants arrived to mimic their designs.  For efficient travel and trade in a wilderness world of wetlands, there were no other options.  The earliest boats were dugout canoes or pirogues.  Hewn from logs of virgin cypress or water tupelo, some were large enough to carry a dozen passengers or a thousand pounds of freight.

  

Tanner's Cottonwood

May 16, 2016

A saddled horse standing beside a giant eastern cottonwood is the subject of a nitrate-based cellulose negative given to me by the man who took the shot in 1938 while prowling about for ivory-billed woodpeckers in Louisiana's vast Tensas Swamp.  The tree appears to be nearly as wide as James Tanner's sorrel gelding is long.  Even in what then was the closest thing remaining to a large, old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in America, the tree in its size was an anomaly.  

Six years ago I was swept into the wild currents of an event that has proven to be the largest environmental calamity of its type in the history of man - the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Not long retired, I was recruited to help assess the impacts of the ongoing disaster on Delta and Breton National Wildlife Refuges near the mouth of the Mississippi River.  Working out of a government facility at Venice, we lived in an atmosphere electric with frenzied activity, excitement, and danger.

  

Study after study continues to document the phenomena of accelerated global warming.  This research also brings to light new understanding of just how complex the earth's climate systems are and how unpredictable the consequences can be.  What is known for sure is that global warming will not, contrary to intuition, lead to warmer weather everywhere all the time, just as it will not necessarily result in wetter or drier conditions everywhere.  

780 different kinds of trees have reportedly been identified on a single 25-acre plot of Malaysian rainforest.  While not quite in this league, a similar size tract on Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Monroe can boast 125 species of trees and shrubs.  Not long ago the site was a hundred year old cotton field.

  

Until the middle of the 20th century, few people in the South escaped an occasional medicinal dosing of a chemical derived by intentionally injuring native pine trees.  The chemical was turpentine and its uses were legion.  Turpentine was derived from the resinous gums of pines, most often longleaf pine, also known as pitch pine, wherever it occurred.  This resin contains the volatile hydrocarbon terpene. 

Standing on the bank of the Tensas River more than thirty years ago, deep within a swamp bearing the same Native American name, I could hear the hollow peals of a plantation bell - at least in my imagination.  With no human habitation for miles on this subtropical summer day, there wasn't much chance of it happening in real time.  But a century and a half earlier the scenario was likely.

  

Gray Fox

Feb 29, 2016

When people experience intense emotions such as fright or awe, they often remark that they feel their hair standing on end.  Startling night sounds that emit from our local forest lands are sometimes a source of these involuntary chill bumps.  Owls, especially barred owls with their wild screams and hoots, have sent many a novice outdoorsman packing.  There is one species of local mammal though that can hold his own with owls when it comes to nocturnal caterwauling.  

President Theodore Roosevelt was frustrated when he arrived in East Carroll Parish in October 1907.  An avid hunter, he had long desired to kill a black bear on a traditional southern hunt with baying hounds and moss-draped swamps as a backdrop.  His first effort in Sharkey County, Mississippi five years earlier had been unsuccessful except for spawning the iconic Teddy Bear stuffed toys when he refused to shoot a young bear that had been tied to a tree by his hunting guide.  

Ecotone

Jan 18, 2016

The term "ecotone" can be defined as a transition area between two adjacent ecological communities.  It usually has some common characteristics of each bordering community and often contains species not found in either of the two.  Ecotones exist at different scales.  It may be the edge of your back yard where it butts up against a bayou or patch of woods.  It can be a 20-mile wide strip that separates the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains from the Great Plains or the northern evergreen forests from the tundra.

  

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