Projects and Research
We plant trees and marsh grasses to help native plants and wildlife thrive on the refuge. We also conduct vegetation and ground and aerial wildlife surveys to monitor plant and wildlife populations and habitat use.
The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) inhabits longleaf pine habitat, which has been reduced to three percent of its original expanse. Loss of habitat led to a rapid decline in these birds, resulting in the bird being listed as endangered in 1970.
The refuge's pine savannah habitat is home for several breeding pairs of red-cockaded woodpeckers. We use prescribed fire to maintain their preferred environment of a pine savannah with a grassy understory. We also install and monitor artificial tree cavities for this species.
Pine Flatwood Habitat
Pine flatwood habitats historically burned periodically ignited naturally by lightning strikes. Southern pines — and many other pine habitats — are adapted to frequent low-intensity fires which inhibit the growth of shrubs and woody plants, while recycling nutrients and promoting the growth of grasses. Look for this habitat along the Boy Scout Road trail. The open areas of pine trees with a grassy understory are maintained through our prescribed fire program. We use prescribed fire as a management tool at the refuge, burning specific units of the refuge every few years to maintain this pine savannah habitat and support the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
The marshes between Lake Pontchartrain (which is actually an estuary) and the refuge's pine lands are brackish — they have less salt than the Gulf of Mexico but are not fresh water. A healthy marsh helps protect and build land because plant roots hold soil in place and slow erosion. If marsh vegetation dies the land is easily washed away. Hurricane Katrina tore away much of the refuge's marshes. Efforts to restore this habitat at the refuge includes volunteer marsh grass planting projects and large scale marsh building projects using sediment dredged from Lake Pontchartrain.