Patterns and processes of wetland loss in coastal Louisiana are complex: A reply to Turner 2001. Estimating the indirect effects of hydrologic change on wetland loss: If the Earth is curved, then how would we know it?

Estuaries
By: , and 

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Abstract

The coastal wetlands of Louisiana comprise a vast expanse of marine to freshwater wetland plant communities interspersed w-ith shallow bays and bayous. These wetlands were built by processes associated with the present-day Mississippi and Atchatfalaya River deltas and older distributaries occupied by the river over the past 7,000 }rears. The high rates of wetland loss identified in this system during the 20th century have serious consequences for living resources (Boesch et al. 1994) and coastal residents, and they affect our ability to maintain navigation and flood control. The restoration and management response to this problem must be grounded in a sound understanding of the causative factors. The system has been highly altered by river levees, roads and railway embankments, impoundments, and canals of many dimensions dredged for a variety of purposes. These changes have been imposed on a landscape that is essentially the result of a delicate natural balance between wetland building processes and compaction, subsidence, and sea-level rise. Many now recognize that coastal wetlands can cope with relatively high rates of subsidence and sea-level rise, as long as the processes that ensure wetland sustainability through vertical accumulation of substrate remain unimpaired (Boesch et al. 2000).

The challenge facing both the scientific community and coastal resource managers in Louisiana is to look to the future. We must use our understanding of the problem and how it evolved to develop a multi-use ecosystem management plan, and some efforts have been made by state and federal agencies towards this goal (LCWCRTF & WCRA 1998). The present discussions (Turner 1997, 2001; Day et al. 2000; Gosselink 2001) demonstrate the complexity of the issues faced in Louisiana. While such discourse is common in the scientific community where varied approaches and interpretations are a sign of vitality, it is helpful to be clear about the state of knowledge and what levels of uncertainty exist. We seek to clarify some of the issues that have been raised in the discussion, recognizing that our best-available science cannot yet resolve many of them as completely as all would like.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Patterns and processes of wetland loss in coastal Louisiana are complex: A reply to Turner 2001. Estimating the indirect effects of hydrologic change on wetland loss: If the Earth is curved, then how would we know it?
Series title Estuaries
DOI 10.2307/1353263
Volume 24
Issue 2
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher Springer Link
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 5 p.
First page 647
Last page 651
Country United States
State Louisiana
Other Geospatial Louisiana Coastal Zones, Mississippi River Delta