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In the spring of 2000, scientists discovered a new and unprecedented loss of salt marsh vegetation in coastal Louisiana and other areas along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This dieback of salt marsh vegetation, sometimes called the brown marsh phenomenon', primarily involved the rapid browning and dieback of smooth cordgrass (Spanina alterniflora). Coastal Louisiana has already undergone huge, historical losses of coastal marsh due to both human-induced and natural factors, and the current overall rate of wetland loss (25-35 sq mi 65-91 SQ KM each year) stands to threaten Louisiana's coastal ecosystem, infrastructure, and economy. On January 11-12, 2001, individuals from Federal and State agencies, universities, and the private sector met at the conference 'Coastal Marsh Dieback in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: Extent, Causes, Consequences, and Remedies' to discuss and share information shout the marsh dieback. Presentations discussed trends in the progress of dieback during the summer of 2000 and in environmental conditions occurring at field study sites, possible causes including drought and Mississippi low flow' conditions, changes in soil conditions (salinity, the bioavailability of metals, pathogens, etc.), the potential for wetland loss that could occur if above and below normality occurs and is sustained over an extended period, advanced techniques for tracking the dieback via aerial photography and remote sensing, linkages of marsh hydrology to the dieback, and mechanisms of modeling dieback and recovery. In addition, presentations were made regarding development of a web site to facilitate information sharing and progress in preparation for requests for proposals based on an emergency appropriation by the U.S. Congress. All findings tended to support the idea that the dieback constituted a continuing environmental emergency and research and natural resource management efforts should be expended accordingly.
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Abstracts from "Coastal Marsh Dieback in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: Extent, Causes, Consequences, and Remedies