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DELTA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE -- A tiny insect, barely visible to the naked eye, is killing marsh cane at an alarming rate and threatening to undo nearly a decade of coastal restoration and land-building in the delicate Mississippi River delta.The Roseau cane mealy bug, also known as a Phragmites scale, was first discovered on some of the marsh reeds of Plaquemines Parish last summer.Try filet mignon with a warm au pouivre sauce, sashimi tuna dipped in asian ginger sauce or shrimp drenched in wasabi lime aioli.For dessert, don't pass up strawberries dipped in milk chocolate or bananas with a dark chocolate and peanut butter blend.But the evidence of the invasion isn’t obvious until whole bunches of the cane turn brown and collapse.
Chris Leopold of Plaquemines Parish took to the House floor with an infested stalk of Roseau cane, hoping his colleagues would understand the gravity of the threat.
Acres of Tiger cane have built up in recent years along Main Pass, especially in spots where the state has dredged strategic crevasses in the river banks to funnel land-building river sediment into areas where the marsh had previously been lost. Geological Survey is about to release its first official report on coastal erosion in Louisiana since 2011 – a report that USGS Branch Chief Tomma Barnes said will show that Louisiana’s land-loss rate has slowed significantly since 2008.
The new marshland is considered a critical barrier against the kind of storm surge that inundated hundreds of square miles in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Now, Barnes said she’s concerned that the mealy bug could reverse the trend in key sections of the delta.
But scientists acknowledge they have no idea how it suddenly arrived in South Louisiana.
Diaz said a combination of factors could have made the Roseau cane more susceptible to infestation now, including climate change, subsidence and even possible lingering impact of the BP oil spill, which lapped up on shore in the summer of 2010 at many of the same marsh areas now ravaged by the scale.