Project RECLAIM

Rehabilitating the ecology of Catahoula Lake through analysis and information management

Researchers

Data content and analytical responsibility: Jerry Holden Jr., manager of GIS and RS programs, Ducks Unlimited Inc.

Internet applications development: Drew Pittman, PC applications specialist, Ducks Unlimited Inc.

Technical support: Corey Cofer, RS/GIS technician, Ducks Unlimited Inc.

Partners

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Ducks Unlimited Inc.

Project R.E.C.L.A.I.M. is a cooperative effort between the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. to provide information about the health of the ecosystem for facilitating best management practices with the limited funds available. Primary funding for this project is through DU's MARSH (Matching Aid to Restore States' Habitat) program. Mr. Hugh Bateman, DU's Director of Conservation Programs for Louisiana, authorized this use of DU funds to support improved management of this extremely important haven for migratory birds.

Methods

There are three different facets to this project:

  • Map the densities of encroaching woody vegetation on the lake
  • Map the vegetation types as accurately as possible as they existed in October 2004
  • Evaluate change in vegetation on Catahoula Lake from 1987-2003

Catahoula Lake

Catahoula Lake, located in east central Louisiana, is one of those legendary locations where waterfowl winter by the tens of thousands each year. Catahoula Lake encompasses approximately 30,000 acres, 20,000 of which are considered to be actual lake bed and the other 10,000 acres are hardwood trees. Today, much of the historic lakebed is being overcome by encroaching woody vegetation such as willow, swamp privet, and water elm. These woody species shade out the moist soil plants that naturally grow at Catahoula Lake. This drastically reduces the amount of available forage for waterfowl and makes Catahoula lake less attractive to most waterfowl species. In addition, it has been noted that the vegetative composition of the lakebed has been changing over the years and it was deemed necessary to capture the vegetative composition of the lake as of 2004. Now that this is complete, further changes in the ecology of Catahoula Lake can be evaluated against the benchmark of 2004.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. have teamed up to devise a management strategy that will help eliminate this destructive encroachment of woody vegetation. In order to facilitate a management plan, the encroaching woody vegetation had to be quantified and stratified into workable classes by relative density. This will allow decision makers at Catahoula Lake to prioritize their mechanical and chemical treatment efforts to minimize the costs and to maximize the benefits. The importance of Catahoula Lake as a resource to waterfowl is hard to overstate. This vital area will continue to winter hundreds of thousands of waterfowl for generations to come if we are careful stewards of it and do not take for granted that it will always be there.

The three initial phases of this project are all complete.

Map the densities of encroaching woody vegetation on the lake:

Vegetation densities

Ikonos 1 meter Pan 09-17-2004; www.spaceimaging.com

Map the vegetation types as accurately as possible as they existed in October 2004:

Vegetation types in 2004

SPOT 5 10-03-2004; www.spot.com

Evaluate change in vegetation on Catahoula Lake from 1987-2003:*

Change in vegetation, 1987-2003

Landsat 5 10-15-1987; landsat.usgs.gov

*The change in vegetation from 1987-2003 should be used very cautiously. With the exception of woody vegetation, which is fairly distinct in the imagery, the vegetation classes were too confused to be considered robust, especially in light of the moderate resolution sensor and the lack of training or ground truth data.