Needlebrush Harvested To Stop Erosion In Jackson County

"Today we're harvesting juncus plants for a marsh restoration project that we have planned for over here by the fishing pier," Stewart Chris May with the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve says.

To harvest the Juncus plant, May took volunteers by boat to sloppy marshlands, many miles south of any signs of human life.

Dolphin Island Sea Lab Professor Just Cebrian was there to receive the future juncus pickers at the shore.

But before any digging could begin, the students had to first learn how.

"It's not complicated, just tedious and time consuming," Cebrian says.

After a short lesson, the new students were on their own.

These three ladies normally work side by side in air conditioned trailers at the Department of Marine Resources. But this muddy work and the swarming bugs definitely kept their day off from being a "walk in the park."

"When the spray starts to wear off, we'll be in trouble," one woman says.

"Beats sitting in the office," another one says.

"You can probably see, like. 25 bugs on my face," Cebrian says.

But he says the fruit of their labor is worth the irritation. These juncus needlebrush plugs will keep land in other marshy places from eroding, which could be very helpful during the next hurricane season.

"Wetlands act to dampen storm surge as it comes through," Chris May says.

The researchers also hope this transplant proves to be something they've believed for a long time.

"When we plant the marsh, we expect the amount of nutrient pollution into the estuary will go down," Cebrian says.

These naturalist say cleaner water and better protection from storms is something that benefits us all.

The Grand Bay Estuary Reserve hopes to harvest about 200 Juncus plants this week. Next week, more volunteers will help plant the needlebrush by the reserve's fishing pier.