NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - This spring, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation plans to spread one million mostly cypress and Tupelo seeds over three sites along Louisiana’s coast, the second attempt to grow new forests on a much larger scale.
The seeds will be dropped by an aerial seeding plane at a site near Pass Manchac in Tangipahoa Parish and at two sites near Big Mar along the Plaquemines-St. Bernard Parish line.
“In some of these areas, the swamp has been so decimated there aren’t trees there to produce a new crop of trees,” said Dr. John Lopez, Director of the Foundation’s Coastal Sustainability Program.
Cypress tree plantings traditionally deploy volunteers to plant 2-year-old saplings.
“When we plant trees, we’re planting about 200 trees per acres,” Lopez said.
Dropping the seeds by air involves roughly 4,000 of them per acre, about half of which are cypress. Last year, the group attempted its first aerial seeding near Pass Manchac, dropping about 800,000 seeds over a 200-acre acre of marsh. This year, they plan a total of 250 acres of plantings in three different sites.
However, Lopez said, it will take a couple of years to know if the technique works, as they wait for trees to sprout to the surface in marshy areas. Nature intends for only a tiny percentage of seeds from a golf ball-size cone to grow into mature trees.
One question involves whether the seeds would be damaged during the air drop as the plane flies a little over 100 feet above the surface. However, Lopez said the process, if successful, could cut the cost of plantings by 99 percent.
Cypress forests can be among nature’s most effective natural defenses against storms. The vast majority of ancient forests have been lost to logging and coastal land loss.
“Cypress will live 100, even a thousand years or more,” Lopez said.
However, he said even a young tree several years old can start to provide some buffer against storms.