A ghost forest of cypress trees sprawled through the Bayou Bienvenue wetlands is the only remaining piece of the healthy ecosystem that used to be present. During our trip to the Bayou Bienvenue wetlands we were able to visualize this environmental issue first hand—something that we had only studied on paper in class. Being able to actually see the stumps of the previously vibrant cypress trees while having a guide, Amanda Moore, from the National Wildlife Federation as our guide allowed us to fully grasp the severity of the situation. Amanda explained to us that the cause of this disappearing cypress tree forest is the manmade dredged channel called the MRGO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet).
The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet is a channel that was designed to be a shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico into New Orleans; however, this plan did not work as anticipated. It turns out that using the Mississippi River instead of MRGO was proven to be a much faster and cheaper option to get to the Gulf. What’s even worse is that the consequence of keeping MRGO is that it will continue to alter the nature ecosystem in the area by allowing for saltwater to influx into the cypress forests which require freshwater to survive. This increase in salinity has caused these cypress forests to become nothing more than stumps sticking out of water. Amanda explained to us that there are a variety of ideas out there to fix this problem, but simply filling in the MRGO would cost an estimated $20 billion. There are solutions to help save the cypress forest out there, and the National Wildlife Federation is collaborating with many other organizations to put these ideas into action. Hopefully in the near future more people will be aware of the disappearing cypress forests, and do something to prevent these ghost forests.
— Jennifer Kurtz