NRG Biodiversity Spotlight | Cedar Bayou EcoCenter
We operate the Cedar Bayou EcoCenter on Galveston Bay in Texas to increase public awareness of the needs of the ecosystem, offer wetland education and develop solutions for coastal issues and restoration.
The EcoCenter is also a resource for unique partnerships with coastal restoration organizations, educators who support No Child Left Inside and groups creating public awareness of coastal issues. The EcoCenter plant nursery grows the majority of wetland plants used for estuarine restoration in Galveston Bay and sits on 14 acres of land consisting of 24 earthen ponds, six above-ground constructed ponds, a greenhouse, a classroom and a laboratory.
In 2016, we donated 113,000 plugs of smooth cord grass that restored approximately 24 acres of intertidal wetlands. Our donations are critical to the restoration directives of more than a dozen third- party conservation organizations around the country.
Wetland education is an important component of the EcoCenter. Through a partnership with the Galveston Bay Foundation’s Get Hip to Habitat program, area schools participate in a hands-on science module that includes wetland education, plant harvests, plant growth on school campuses, water chemistry and plant yield. At the end of the school year, the plants are used in coastal restoration. In 2016, more than 900 students from 14 schools visited the EcoCenter through the Get Hip to Habitat program.
In June 2014, former President Barack Obama released a White House memorandum outlining a federal strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators. Milkweed is the chosen habitat of one important pollinator, the monarch butter y, and the EcoCenter provides a greenhouse and living shade structures for resource agency research on local milkweed species.
For two years, milkweed seeds have been collected, and scientific evaluations are under way to determine which species best meet the monarch’s needs. In 2017, research will focus on determining which species the butterflies prefer, which species transplant the best to natural areas, and which species locals would be most likely to put in their yards.
Habitat creation and preservation
Beginning in 2016 and for the next five years, the EcoCenter will provide 4,800 square feet of shade structure to grow hummock plant species that provide habitat for colonial water birds such as tern, herons and egrets. Hummock plants are shrubs and trees that grow in coastal transition areas just above the high tide line. The trees are drought-resistant and soil/salt tolerant. Some hummock species include Carolina wolfberry, lime prickly ash, sugarberry, coral bean and prickly pear cactus.
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