July 10, 2018
by Dr. Joann Mossa
Recently, Georgia Ackerman and Dan Tonsmeire assisted me with field work as part of our EPA project on the Apalachicola River. One part of the project is restoring sand bar habitat south of Bristol and Blountstown. When the river was repeatedly dredged during the navigation project (1950s to 2001), sand and gravel from the channel bottom was dumped on the channel sides and sand bars. This was one of three problem areas for the Army Corps of Engineers, so disposal resulted in these sand bars being much higher and larger than they were before dredging, and the river width, as measured between tree-lines, being wider than historically. Although vegetation is beginning to colonize on those bars since dredging stopped, this restoration project will help the river in its recovery.
Along this part of the Apalachicola River, the first two trees to colonize the bars are willow and poplar. New plants can be grown by taking cuttings from existing plants. These cuttings can grow roots so long as they have continuous access to the water table. Dr. Chen, another researcher on the project, and Vicki and Bruce Mathis from Chipley, also helped with the field work. Vicki works for Chipola College, which may provide student-volunteers. Bruce is an organic farmer and taught horticulture for many years.
Plantings that we did in June had mixed results; some had grown, but those planted near the water line were gone, either due to changing water levels (5’ up and down) or people pulling them up. On this trip, plantings were done on the bar with the least recreational activity. Since the last trip, we soaked willow stakes so that they could grow rootlets. Different types of stakes (cut willows, cut poplars, soaked willows) were tagged with different color flagging and their locations were marked with a GPS. Jumping mullet, a white ibis, and a bald eagle surveyed and seemed to approve of our work.
To learn more, follow this blog for updates. If you have an interest in volunteering on this project, please connect with Joann at [email protected] and we hope to get you involved.