New website focuses on Roseau cane die-off

Bruce Schultz  |  11/17/2017 7:25:32 PM

(11/17/17) BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU AgCenter has developed a new website to help monitor the spread of a small insect associated with the recent die-offs of large areas of Roseau cane, a situation that threatens Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

The website includes a map showing locations where the insect, Phragmites scale, has been found.

It has been found in 13 parishes, as far west as Vermilion Parish and as far north as East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa parishes. It was first detected last year in southern Plaquemines Parish in the marsh along the Mississippi River, but analysis of satellite imagery by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suggests die-offs may have begun earlier than 2016.

The website shows locations where the scale has been found in nine other parishes, including Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Terrebonne and St. Mary.

Scientists fear the Roseau cane die-offs could mean the loss of large swaths of marsh because the vegetation’s roots hold the fragile wetlands soil and protect inland areas from storm damage.

In addition, the maritime industry is concerned the loss of Roseau cane will cause the Mississippi River channel to fill with silt, creating a problem for large, deep-draft ships that load and unload through the Port of Orleans. Oil and gas infrastructure in the affected marshes could also be vulnerable.

A management plan for a long-range study of the problem is on the website. Officials are trying to secure state and federal funding for the project.

Also included is an advisory on how the public can avoid spreading the insect as well as instructions on how to report sightings of the scale insect on Roseau cane to help researchers monitor its range.

The website includes photos of different Roseau cane varieties and instructions on identifying scale insects.

Agencies involved in the Roseau cane work include the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Authority, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The website provides up-to-date information on the distribution of the scale in coastal Louisiana and descriptions of the work being done to understand the scale and its impact on the marsh,” said Ian Knight, a postdoctoral associate in the AgCenter. “We hope to provide updates and additional information as our research progresses.”

AgCenter entomologist Rodrigo Diaz said the website will serve as an information hub with resources for the public, natural resource managers, extension agents and scientists.

“It is important for our stakeholders not only to learn how to prevent the movement of infested Roseau cane but also how to recognize Roseau cane, the exotic scale and die-off symptoms,” Diaz said.

The website address is http://www.lsuagcenter.com/roseaucane

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