Stitching Hope for the Coast – Invasion of the Apple Snail

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September 29, 2018 by Dr. G

On the first full day of OCEANDOTCOMM, our final speaker of the morning was Delaina LeBlanc from BTNEP, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary. Her presentation on birds and their role in this system was really interesting. She emphasized that many people may not know the scientific names of the birds, but they each have their own name and own stories/experiences with birds. She is hoping herself and others can continue to learn more about how birds are using habitats, as the habitats are changing over time.

Certainly, I could have generated a quilt focusing on just a story of birds – but it was one side piece of information that Delaina shared that really grabbed my attention. She mentioned the invasive species the apple snail, and how the expanding range of the limpkin is helping with the battle to remove this invasive species. Then, I saw a flyer on a bulletin board in the LUMCON library (see right), and my research into this story began!

To tell this story, I decided to space out the themed fabric across a set of “windows”. I modified a pattern titled “Granny’s Sweet Shop” described as “a nostalgic window from yesteryear. In days gone by small towns all boasted a corner sweet shop, or at least a corner of the general store that had a corner full of candy sweets.” The pattern was printed in Big Block Quilts Magazine, Issue #71.

The fabric around the border and on the back reminds me of old wood you might find as the walls of buildings along the coast that have been worn down by weather, salt air, and time. I placed nine jars in the window of this “wooden structure” for a different twist on the theme of coastal optimism.

Jar #1 and Jar #2 have fabrics that represent the apple snail, the focus of this story. The apple snail, Pomacea canaliculata (Lamarck, 1828), is a freshwater snail native to tropical and sub-tropical South America.

 

 

The apple snail is an invasive species in the United States, believed to have been introduced by the aquarium trade (Jar #3 for aquarium and Jar #4 for trade). The subsequent escape and/or release of the snail allowed for its increased distribution. The apple snail was first spotted in Louisiana in 2007 and is feeding on a large variety of aquatic plants in freshwater ponds, lakes, swamps and other wetlands. There is a concern that the apple snail can negatively impact agricultural crops and human health, as they can carry parasites.

However, there are natural predators to the apple snail, including the limpkin (Aramus guarauna). Believed to only exist in Florida and southern Georgia, this bird was first spotted in Louisiana in December 2017. The increase in global temperatures (Jar #5) and shifting of habitats towards the north (Jar #6) may have played a role in the limpkin’s geographic expansion. The presence of limpkin in Louisiana is important, as limpkins feed mostly on large apple snails.

Females lay clusters of bright pink eggs (Jar #7) above the water line. They are attached to solid surfaces such as rocks, piers, emergent vegetation or trash. Within 7-15 days the eggs usually hatch. Each mass of eggs can contain from 200 up to 1000 eggs. Females can live up to 4 years and lay eggs every few weeks. Before the arrival of the limpkin, hand picking (Jar #8) of the pink egg masses was and still is effective in reducing the number of snails, and allowing the pink eggs to fall in the water will stop the eggs from hatching. Hand picking of the adult snails can also help reduce their spread, but the snails are typically submerged and not easy to spot. Hand picking of both eggs and snails is unfortunately a resource-intensive process (requires time and people).

The limpkin (Jar #9) may be the solution to the apple snail problem in Louisiana. Not all people believe that there will be a large enough population of limpkin to impact the overall numbers of apple snails, but there is hope that there may now be a change in the fight against this invasive species, from a new visitor to Louisiana following its shifting habitat.

 


 

This is my story of coastal optimism – a story of how humans and nature find a way to battle an invasive species to keep the local environment in its natural state. The quilt measures 42 inches wide by 44 inches in height with fabric from Spoonflower (online), Quilters Store (Sedona, AZ), and JOANN Fabric & Craft (Springfield).

So thank you to Delania LeBlanc and her presentation at OCEANDOTCOMM, which led me to ask questions, which led me to this story!

To see what others have created with yarn, fabric, etc., on the theme of coastal optimism, visit the Flickr group and join the conversation (or create your own Louisiana coastal inspiration and contribute to the collection!): https://www.flickr.com/groups/stitchingcoast2018/

 


This blog post was created from OCEANDOTCOMM and supported by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON).

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