Pre-construction Monitoring Activities Kick Off on North Breton Island Louisiana

A USFWS biologist takes samples of sand at North Breton Island.

Trustee staff and partners working to restore bird habitat on North Breton Island recently began scientific testing of the sand and invertebrates that live there, to prepare for the upcoming construction phase. The island’s restoration is one part of our ambitious, $318 million Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration Project.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S Geologic Survey biologists took sand samples to study and determine the abundance and species composition of the worms, crustaceans and other invertebrates that call the island’s shoreline home. These small animals at the bottom of the food chain are an important source of food for shorebirds that visit the island in the winter; including the federally threatened red knot and piping plover.

Typically, the new sand we restore to islands lacks many of the small animals characteristic of established beaches; they just haven’t had time to colonize these new habitats. After the sand is pumped in and the shoreline is reformed, biologists will take samples again in order to compare the post-construction benthic invertebrate population with the 2018 baseline that will result from this testing.

With those hungry shorebirds and other species in mind, the biologists are aiming to have at least 70 percent of the pre-project invertebrate populations, also called biomass, established within two years of the project’s completion. This is a normal rate of return we’ll be looking for to ensure this restoration effort is on track.

The $72-million North Breton project, construction expected to start in 2019, will increase the size of the island by hundreds of acres and extend the life of critical nesting habitat for brown pelicans, terns, gulls, skimmers, and other birds. The additional acreage will also benefit other birds that visit and forage on the island. Before construction begins, however, we want to consider the project’s effects on a completely different set of smaller, but critical, species.