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Water 2016, 8(1), 1; doi:10.3390/w8010001

Wetland Accretion Rates Along Coastal Louisiana: Spatial and Temporal Variability in Light of Hurricane Isaac’s Impacts

1
Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast and Environment, 3251 Energy, Coast, and Environment Building, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
2
Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast and Environment, 1002Y Energy, Coast, and Environment Building, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
3
Department of Environmental Sciences, School of the Coast and Environment, 1273 Energy, Coast, and Environment Building, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
4
Department of Environmental Sciences, School of the Coast and Environment, 2275 Energy, Coast, and Environment Building, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Richard Smardon
Received: 3 November 2015 / Revised: 14 December 2015 / Accepted: 16 December 2015 / Published: 22 December 2015
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Abstract

The wetlands of the southern Louisiana coast are disappearing due to a host of environmental stressors. Thus, it is imperative to analyze the spatial and temporal variability of wetland vertical accretion rates. A key question in accretion concerns the role of landfalling hurricanes as a land-building agent, due to their propensity to deposit significant volumes of inorganic sediments. Since 1996, thousands of accretion measurements have been made at 390 sites across coastal Louisiana as a result of a regional monitoring network, called the Coastal Reference Monitoring System (CRMS). We utilized this dataset to analyze the spatial and temporal patterns of accretion by mapping rates during time periods before, around, and after the landfall of Hurricane Isaac (2012). This analysis is vital for quantifying the role of hurricanes as a land-building agent and for understanding the main mechanism causing heightened wetland accretion. The results show that accretion rates averaged about 2.89 cm/year from stations sampled before Isaac, 4.04 cm/year during the period encompassing Isaac, and 2.38 cm/year from sites established and sampled after Isaac. Accretion rates attributable to Isaac’s effects were therefore 40% and 70% greater than before and after the event, respectively, indicating the event’s importance toward coastal land-building. Accretion associated with Isaac was highest at sites located 70 kilometers from the storm track, particularly those near the Mississippi River and its adjacent distributaries and lakes. This spatial pattern of elevated accretion rates indicates that freshwater flooding from fluvial channels, rather than storm surge from the sea per se, is the main mechanism responsible for increased wetland accretion. This significance of riverine flooding has implications toward future coastal restoration policies and practices. View Full-Text
Keywords: wetland accretion; Hurricane Isaac; Coastal Reference Monitoring System (CRMS); Mississippi River; flooding; rainfall; storm surge wetland accretion; Hurricane Isaac; Coastal Reference Monitoring System (CRMS); Mississippi River; flooding; rainfall; storm surge
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Bianchette, T.A.; Liu, K.-B.; Qiang, Y.; Lam, N.S.-N. Wetland Accretion Rates Along Coastal Louisiana: Spatial and Temporal Variability in Light of Hurricane Isaac’s Impacts. Water 2016, 8, 1.

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