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Wetlands and Hurricanes. By Wynn W. Cudmore, Ph.D. N orthwest C enter for S ustainable R esources DUE # 0757239. This project supported in part by the National Science Foundation. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

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slide1

Wetlands and Hurricanes

By Wynn W. Cudmore, Ph.D.

Northwest Center for Sustainable Resources

DUE # 0757239

This project supported in part by the National Science Foundation. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

wetlands and hurricanes
Wetlands and Hurricanes

Hurricane Gustav

25 August – 1 September 2008

slide3

The Gulf Coast

Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida

slide4

The Lower Mississippi River Basin is probably the most human-impacted large water basin in the world:

  • Logging of forested wetlands
  • Conversion to agriculture
  • Altered hydrology
  • Extirpation of megafauna
  • Fragmentation of the Mississippi River delta
  • Only about 3.7% of the original wetlands in the basin remain in a natural condition
  • Largest intact wetland is the Atchafalaya Swamp

1882

2000

10% Forest remaining

intact wetlands of coastal louisiana
Intact wetlands of coastal Louisiana

1. Barrier islands

2. Brackish wetlands

3. Swamps

4. Freshwater marshes

5. Bottomland forests

Louisiana contains over 40% of wetlands in the lower 48 states

slide8

New Orleans\'s growth has required draining wetlands and a complex system of levees, pumps and canals

New Orleans, Louisiana 29 April 2008

wetlands as buffers to storm surges
Wetlands as buffers to storm surges

Every 2.7 miles of wetland lowers storm surge by one foot

Barataria Bay, Louisiana

wetland loss along the louisiana coast
Wetland Loss along the Louisiana Coast

1999

Over the past few centuries 25% of wetlands associated with the Mississippi Delta have been lost to the ocean

1976

causes of gulf coast wetland loss
Causes of Gulf Coast Wetland Loss

Levees and dams direct sediment out into the Gulf of Mexico rather than to wetlands

Sediment flowing from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico

slide16

2. Canals cut into coastal wetlands allow saltwater intrusion

3. Sea level rise due to climate change

Oil gas extraction rig among eroding wetlands in coastal Louisiana

hurricane katrina
Hurricane Katrina

28 August 2005

Category 5 hurricane

One day before landfall

hurricane katrina1
Hurricane Katrina

29 August 2005

Landfall as a Category 3 storm

katrina s impact
Katrina’s impact

Failed levee

Fishing boats on levee

Flood damage

New Orleans flooded

Damage to Hard Rock Casino

slide21

The impacts on wetlands from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005)

Rita’s impact was less severe with some marsh impact west of the Mississippi River

Katrina transformed 217 square miles of marsh into open water

Before

After

mississippi delta before and after katrina
Mississippi Delta - Before and After Katrina

31 August 2005

Post-Katrina

9 August 2005

Pre-Katrina

impacts of katrina on the barrier islands
Impacts of Katrina on the barrier islands

Land area of Chandeleur Islands decreased from

5.6 mi2 to 2.0 mi2

impact of hurricanes on the chandeleur islands louisiana
Impact of hurricanes on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana

July 2001

Pre-Hurricane Lili (2002), Ivan (2004), Dennis (2005), Katrina (2005)

31 August 2005

2 days post-Hurricane Katrina

hurricanes as agents of renewal
Hurricanes as agents of renewal

Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) and water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) were mostly unaffected by the storm

Katrina wind damage in Pearl River Basin, Mississippi – late 2005

impact of hurricane katrina on coastal forests
Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Coastal Forests

After Katrina

Before Katrina

Green – intact forests Red – storm-damaged forests

wetland restoration as a strategy
Wetland restoration as a strategy
  • Wetland restoration will require an increase in the sediment load of the Mississippi River
  • Current sediment load is 50% lower than historic levels
  • Sustaining current levels of wetlands will require an additional 18-24 billion tons of sediment per year
  • Future wetland loss seems inevitable
the coast 2050 wetland restoration plan
The “Coast 2050” Wetland Restoration Plan
  • Diverts a portion of the Mississippi River to deliver more sediment to wetlands south of New Orleans
  • Levees below New Orleans opened to increase sediment and freshwater flow into marshes
  • Close the Mississippi Gulf Outlet
  • Oil and gas channels to be filled
  • Sediment builds and wetland grasses replanted as needed
  • Barrier islands replenished with dredged material
marsh terraces as a conservation practice
Marsh terraces as a conservation practice
  • Earthen terraces are constructed to reduce wind and wave energy in shallow open water
  • Facilitate establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation
  • Each terrace is approximately 1000 feet long, 40 feet wide at the base and 10 feet wide at the top
  • Surface of the terrace is 2 feet above water level and planted with native vegetation
  • Arranged in “V”-shaped patterns in shallow, open water
marsh terraces
Marsh terraces

Marsh terraces captured vegetation and soil displaced by Hurricane Rita

The resulting increase in elevation may assist in the marsh-building process

Marsh terraces built in Little Vermillion Bay, Vermillion Parish, Louisiana. 

slide34

Marsh terraces

Marsh terraces in Vermillion Bay, Louisiana after several growing seasons

marsh terraces as a conservation practice1
Marsh terraces as a conservation practice
  • Earthen terraces are constructed to reduce wind and wave energy in shallow open water
  • Facilitate establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation
  • Each terrace is approximately 1000 feet long, 40 feet wide at the base and 10 feet wide at the top
  • Surface of the terrace is 2 feet above water level and planted with native vegetation
  • Arranged in “V”-shaped patterns in shallow, open water
  • Create habitat for fish and wildlife species
hurricanes and gulf coast wetlands a summary
Hurricanes and Gulf Coast Wetlands – a summary
  • The Gulf Coast is vulnerable to damage from hurricanes due to its location, elevation and loss of wetlands and barrier islands
  • Wetlands and barrier islands provide significant protection against major storms
  • Wetlands have decreased in area due to natural and human-caused events
  • Hurricanes result in the loss of additional wetlands and barrier islands, some of which is likely permanent
  • Wetland restoration will require additional sediment input, which the current system cannot provide
  • The “Coast 2050” wetland restoration plan proposes to alter the hydrology of the Mississippi River Delta to reverse wetland loss
photo credits
Photo Credits
  • IAN Image Library (ian.umces.edu/imagelibrary/): Tim Carruthers
  • Louisiana State University Hurricane Katrina and Rita Cooperative Clearinghouse.
  • Marine Photobank: David Helvarg, Blue Frontier Campaign, ESA Envisat
  • NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org
  • Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data provided courtesy of Laura Rocchio, NASA Landsat Project Science Office
  • NASA Earth Observatory
  • NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team
  • Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center
  • GOES Project Science Office
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce: Dr. Terry McTigue, NOAA Fisheries
  • U.S. NAVY
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Lynn Betts,
  • U.S. Geological Survey: National Wetlands Research Center
additional slides
Additional Slides

The following slides are provided as additional evidence of the impacts of Katrina on wetlands

the impacts on wetlands from hurricanes katrina and rita 2005
The impacts on wetlands from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005)

Katrina transformed 217square miles of marsh into open water

After

Rita’s impact was less severe with some marsh impact west of the Mississippi River

Before

mississippi delta before and after katrina1
Mississippi Delta –Before and After Katrina

4 September 2005

6 days post-Katrina

9 August 2005

Pre-Katrina

new orleans before and after katrina
New Orleans –Before and After Katrina

30 August 2005

27 August 2005

new orleans before and after katrina1
New Orleans –Before and After Katrina

31 August 2005

2 days post-Katrina

27 August 2005

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