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Water 2016, 8(3), 101; doi:10.3390/w8030101

Decline of the Maurepas Swamp, Pontchartrain Basin, Louisiana, and Approaches to Restoration

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA 70402, USA
2
Comite Resources, Inc. 11643 Port Hudson Pride Rd., Zachary, LA 70791, USA
3
Wetland Resources, LLC, 17459 Riverside Lane, Tickfaw, LA 70466, USA
4
Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Luc Lambs
Received: 14 November 2015 / Revised: 22 February 2016 / Accepted: 24 February 2016 / Published: 15 March 2016

Abstract

The Maurepas swamp is the second largest contiguous coastal forest in Louisiana but it is highly degraded due to subsidence, near permanent flooding, nutrient starvation, nutria herbivory, and saltwater intrusion. Observed tree mortality rates at study sites in the Maurepas swamp are very high (up to 100% tree mortality in 11 years) and basal area decreased with average salinities of <1 ppt. Habitat classification, vegetation productivity and mortality, and surface elevation changes show a clear trajectory from stagnant, nearly permanently flooded forests with broken canopy to degraded forests with sparse baldcypress and dominated by herbaceous species and open water to open water habitat for most of the Maurepas swamp without introduction of fresh water to combat saltwater intrusion and stimulate productivity and accretion. Healthy forests in the Maurepas are receiving fresh water containing nutrients and sediments from urban areas, high quality river water, or secondarily treated municipal effluent. Currently, two proposed diversions into the swamp are via Hope Canal (57 m3·s−1) and Blind River (142 m3·s−1). These diversions would greatly benefit their immediate area but they are too small to influence the entire Maurepas sub-basin, especially in terms of accretion. A large diversion (>1422 m3·s−1) is needed to deliver the adequate sediments to achieve high accretion rates and stimulate organic soil formation. View Full-Text
Keywords: Taxodium distichumNyssa aquatica swamp; coastal forested wetlands; hydrologic alteration; saltwater intrusion; Mississippi River diversion Taxodium distichumNyssa aquatica swamp; coastal forested wetlands; hydrologic alteration; saltwater intrusion; Mississippi River diversion
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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MDPI and ACS Style

Shaffer, G.P.; Day, J.W.; Kandalepas, D.; Wood, W.B.; Hunter, R.G.; Lane, R.R.; Hillmann, E.R. Decline of the Maurepas Swamp, Pontchartrain Basin, Louisiana, and Approaches to Restoration. Water 2016, 8, 101.

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