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Native plant project at Nicholls expands to include marsh species

THIBODAUX – A 7.5-acre pond at the Nicholls State University Farm will soon be home to hundreds of thousands of new plants, broadening the research and cultivation capabilities of the Louisiana Native Plant Initiative.

A multi-institution effort, renewed by a signed agreement on May 27 at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Center for Ecology and Environmental Technology, the initiative’s mission is to collect, preserve, increase and study native grasses, forbs and legumes from Louisiana’s ecosystems. In doing so, researchers hope to conserve a vanishing natural resource and help jumpstart the development of a native seed industry that will supply plant materials for restoration, revegetation, roadside plantings and the ornamental plant industry.

The pond at the University Farm will expand the initiative’s domain of species to include marsh and wetland plants that grow in 12 to 18 inches of water – black needlerush, giant bulrush and smooth cordgrass, among others.

“Our terrestrial plant capabilities at the farm are already well established,” Dr. Quenton Fontenot, associate professor of biological sciences and coordinator of the marine and environmental biology graduate program, said. “This pond will allow us to increase the number of species and types, adding to our coastal restoration capabilities.”

Renovation of the pond, which will involve partitioning it into three, independently drainable units, has been funded by project partners, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL).  Plants produced in the pond will be used by Nicholls, BTNEP and CRCL for coastal restoration. Private contractors are currently bidding for the pond renovation project.

For additional information about the LNPI, maintained in part by Nicholls students enrolled in service-learning courses, go to www.nicholls.edu/bayousphere/.

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