Sea oats may be key to restoring disappearing barrier islands
The Louisiana coastline is disappearing at a rate of up to 35 square miles a year, but much is being done to combat this loss. Dr. Carrie Knott, the only sea oats plant breeder in the nation, spent much of 2010 identifying sea oat lines with proven performance in natural beach environments.
Knott’s work explored 100 lines of sea oats and identified four that performed well in normal environments and after major hurricanes. These four lines survived hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. The experimental sea oats lines she evaluated were collected from states across the Gulf Coast and East Coast, including Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina prior to her arrival at LSU.
“Native stands of sea oats have become extinct in Louisiana,” said Knott. “Our beaches are much lower in elevation than states like Florida, so sea oats survival in Louisiana is much lower than other Gulf Coast states."
Dr. Knott is also investigating methods to produce sea oats on a commercial scale. She is using vegetable float systems as her model. “Even though it’s modeled after vegetable production, the main function is not for agriculture, but for restoration,” said Knott.