BULRUSH BASKETS-AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH

TO WETLAND RESTORATION IN ARMAND BAYOU

Mark Kramer-Armand Bayou Nature Center-Pasadena Texas

Armand Bayou is a tidal stream located in southeast Harris County Texas near Galveston Bay. There has been an estimated 93% reduction in tidal marsh habitat since the 1950’s due largely to the effects of subsidence in the Armand Bayou watershed. Armand Bayou Nature Center (ABNC) has conducted extensive marsh restoration efforts for over a decade in an effort to mitigate these impacts using traditional planting strategies. Recent efforts have focused on a new innovative technique, which mimics the horticultural practice of using “peat pots” which have been modified for the marine environment.

These baskets are constructed by enclosing a three-gallon rootball of California bulrush (Schoenoplectus californicus) in wire mesh. Three to four fist size pieces of concrete ballast are added under the root ball to ensure that the basket is held on the bayou bottom during early root development. This ballast is of particular importance during high wind and wave activity when young propagules may be uprooted in the turbulent environment.

After the basket construction is complete they are deployed by boat by simply tossing them over the side. The wire decomposes over a relatively brief time period allowing rhizome growth to expand.

There are many advantages to using this technique. First they are easy to deploy by gently tossing them into the restoration site. Secondly, plants have an excellent success rate with approximately 80% surviving. Third, these propagules are capable of surviving in deeper water than those installed using traditional planting techniques. Fourth, the ability to establish intermediate marsh in these deeper zones translates into greater marsh acreage created.

ABNC has received a Coastal Management Program Grant during Cycle 13 which has enabled the nature center to expand these restoration efforts and document the process on the ABNC website. This reporting has made the process easily available for all who may be interested in learning about and using the technique. The following link is a step by step guide as to how to construct and install bulrush baskets.