Special Issue "Sustainable Management, Conservation and Restoration in Deltaic Ecosystems with Special Emphasis on the Mississippi Delta"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Hydrology and Hydrogeology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. G. Paul Kemp
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
Interests: fluvial geology; sediment transport; coastal ecosystems; river deltas; changing river discharge; “greening” dams
Prof. Dr. John W. Day
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast & Environment, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
Interests: delta ecosystems; coastal restoration; treatment wetlands; tropical ecology; freshwater forested wetlands; evolution of human society; sustainability; ecosystem goods and services

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Coastal ecosystems worldwide are under historically unprecedented threats due to combinations of factors that vary from coast to coast. These include climate change (sea-level rise, more intense storms, and changes in freshwater discharge); growing human populations in port cities near, at, or below sea level; and the increasingly unaffordable costs of protecting people and trade infrastructure in these ecologically significant systems. Deltas are especially vulnerable today because of the rapid emergence of global megacities, efforts to accommodate larger ships, and the potential for irreparable economic losses. The focus of this Special Issue will be the sustainability of both ecosystems and human populations in deltas. The Special Issue will center on the US Mississippi River Delta because of the massive engineering efforts currently underway toward restoring sustainability. In addition, we seek analyses that allow comparisons with other deltas worldwide, particularly those where ecosystem restoration initiatives are underway.

Dr. G. Paul Kemp
Prof. Dr. John W. Day
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • delta
  • Mississippi Delta
  • climate change
  • sustainable management
  • coastal megacities
  • coastal restoration
  • fluvial sediment transport
  • channel resuscitation
  • dam mitigation/removal

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Effect of Restoration Actions on Organic Carbon Pools in the Lagoon—Delta Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, Colombian Caribbean
by , , , and
Water 2021, 13(9), 1297; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13091297 (registering DOI) - 06 May 2021
Abstract
Mangroves provide multiple ecosystem services and are essential for mitigating global warming owing to their capacity to store large carbon (C) stocks. Due to widespread mangrove degradation, actions have been implemented to restore them worldwide. An important representative case in Colombia is the [...] Read more.
Mangroves provide multiple ecosystem services and are essential for mitigating global warming owing to their capacity to store large carbon (C) stocks. Due to widespread mangrove degradation, actions have been implemented to restore them worldwide. An important representative case in Colombia is the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta’s restoration plan. This management intervention focused on restoring the natural hydrological functioning after massive mangrove mortality (~25,000 ha) due to soil hyper-salinization after river water input from the Magdalena River was eliminated. A partial recovery occurred during subsequent years, and hydrological management is still being implemented today. To understand how the degradation and subsequent management have affected mangrove C stocks, we compared C stocks in stands with different intervention levels reflected in their current forest structure. We found that the total C stock (398–1160 Mg C ha−1) was within the range measured in other neotropical mangroves without vegetation deterioration. The aboveground C was significantly higher in the stands where hydraulic connectivity was restored. By contrast, the belowground C was higher in the stands with low hydraulic connectivity due to channel clogging and a lack of sufficient maintenance. Our results show that hydrological management measures influenced above- and belowground C stocks, even at a 2 m depth. In addition, a strong indirect relationship useful for estimating carbon content from organic matter content was found. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The “Problem” of New Orleans and Diminishing Sustainability of Mississippi River Management—Future Options
Water 2021, 13(6), 813; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13060813 - 16 Mar 2021
Viewed by 503
Abstract
Climate change forcings are having significant impacts in coastal Louisiana today and increasingly affect the future of New Orleans, a deltaic city mostly below sea level, which depends on levee and pumps to protect from a host of water-related threats. Precipitation has increased [...] Read more.
Climate change forcings are having significant impacts in coastal Louisiana today and increasingly affect the future of New Orleans, a deltaic city mostly below sea level, which depends on levee and pumps to protect from a host of water-related threats. Precipitation has increased in the Mississippi River basin generally, increasing runoff, so that in recent years the Mississippi River has been above flood stage for longer periods of time both earlier and later in the year, increasing the likelihood that hurricane surge, traditionally confined to summer and fall, may compound effects of prolonged high water on river levees. The Bonnet Carré Spillway, just upstream of New Orleans has been operated more often and for longer periods of time in recent years than ever before in its nearly 100-year history. Because all rain that falls within the city must be pumped out, residents have been exposed to interior flooding more frequently as high-intensity precipitation events can occur in any season. A sustainable path for New Orleans should involve elevating people and sensitive infrastructure above flood levels, raising some land levels, and creating water storage areas within the city. Management of the lower Mississippi River in the future must include consideration that the river will exceed its design capacity on a regular basis. The river must also be used to restore coastal wetlands through the use of diversions, which will also relieve pressure on levees. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing Multi-Hazard Vulnerability and Dynamic Coastal Flood Risk in the Mississippi Delta: The Global Delta Risk Index as a Social-Ecological Systems Approach
Water 2021, 13(4), 577; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040577 - 23 Feb 2021
Viewed by 774
Abstract
The tight coupling of the social-ecological system (SES) of the Mississippi Delta calls for balanced natural hazard vulnerability and risk assessments. Most existing assessments have approached these components in isolation. To address this, we apply the Global Delta Risk Index (GDRI) in the [...] Read more.
The tight coupling of the social-ecological system (SES) of the Mississippi Delta calls for balanced natural hazard vulnerability and risk assessments. Most existing assessments have approached these components in isolation. To address this, we apply the Global Delta Risk Index (GDRI) in the Mississippi Delta at high-resolution census tract level. We assess SES spatial patterns of drought, hurricane-force wind, and coastal flood vulnerability and integrate hazard and exposure data for the assessment of coastal flood risk. Moreover, we compare current coastal flood risk to future risk in 2025 based on the modelled effects of flood depth, exposure, and changes in ecosystem area in the context of ongoing efforts under the 2017 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan. Results show that the Master Plan will lead to decreases in risk scores by 2025, but the tracts that are currently the most vulnerable benefit less from risk reduction efforts. Along with our index output, we discuss the need for further advancements in SES methodology and the potential for catastrophic hazard events beyond the model parameters, such as extreme rainfall events and very strong hurricanes. Assessing SES risk components can lead to more targeted policy recommendations, demonstrated by the need for Master Plan projects to consider their unequal spatial effects on vulnerability and risk reduction. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Development of a Framework for the Integrated Assessment of SDG Trade-Offs in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve
Water 2021, 13(4), 528; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040528 - 18 Feb 2021
Viewed by 945
Abstract
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their corresponding targets are significantly interconnected, with many interactions, synergies, and trade-offs between individual goals across multiple temporal and spatial scales. This paper proposes a framework for the Integrated Assessment Modelling (IAM) of a complex [...] Read more.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their corresponding targets are significantly interconnected, with many interactions, synergies, and trade-offs between individual goals across multiple temporal and spatial scales. This paper proposes a framework for the Integrated Assessment Modelling (IAM) of a complex deltaic socio-ecological system in order to analyze such SDG interactions. We focused on the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve (SBR), India, within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta. It is densely populated with 4.4 million people (2011), high levels of poverty, and a strong dependence on rural livelihoods. It is adjacent to the growing megacity of Kolkata. The area also includes the Indian portion of the world’s largest mangrove forest––the Sundarbans––hosting the iconic Bengal Tiger. Like all deltaic systems, this area is subject to multiple drivers of environmental change operating across scales. The IAM framework is designed to investigate socio-environmental change under a range of explorative and/or normative scenarios and explore associated policy impacts, considering a broad range of subthematic SDG indicators. The following elements were explicitly considered: (1) agriculture; (2) aquaculture; (3) mangroves; (4) fisheries; and (5) multidimensional poverty. Key questions that can be addressed include the implications of changing monsoon patterns, trade-offs between agriculture and aquaculture, or the future of the Sundarbans’ mangroves under sea-level rise and different management strategies. The novel, high-resolution analysis of SDG interactions allowed by the IAM will provide stakeholders and policy makers the opportunity to prioritize and explore the SDG targets that are most relevant to the SBR and provide a foundation for further integrated analysis. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing Chlorophyll a Spatiotemporal Patterns Combining In Situ Continuous Fluorometry Measurements and Landsat 8/OLI Data across the Barataria Basin (Louisiana, USA)
Water 2021, 13(4), 512; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040512 - 16 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 684
Abstract
The acquisition of reliable and accurate data to assess environmental changes over large spatial scales is one of the main limitations to determine the impact of eutrophication, and the effectiveness of management strategies in coastal systems. Here, we used a continuous in situ [...] Read more.
The acquisition of reliable and accurate data to assess environmental changes over large spatial scales is one of the main limitations to determine the impact of eutrophication, and the effectiveness of management strategies in coastal systems. Here, we used a continuous in situ Chl-a fluorometry sensor and L8/OLI satellite data to develop an algorithm and map Chl-a spatial distribution to assess the impact of freshwater diversions and associated high nutrient loading rates in the Barataria Basin (BB) complex, a coastal system in the northern Gulf of Mexico. We collected water quality samples at 24 sampling stations and high-frequency continuous fluorometry in situ [Chl-a] data along a ~87 km transect from 2019–2020. Field [Chl-a] values were highly correlated (r = 0.86; p < 0.0001) with continuous in situ [Chl-a] fluorometry values. These continuous in situ [Chl-a] values were significantly related to a surface reflectance ratio ([B1 + B4]/B3) estimated using L8/OLI data (exponential model; R2 = 0.46; RMSE = 4.8, p < 0.0001). The statistical model replicated [Chl-a] spatial patterns across the BB complex. This work shows the utility of high-frequency continuous Chl-a fluorometry sampling coupled with L8/OLI image analysis to increase the frequency and number of field data sets to assess water quality conditions at large spatial scales in highly dynamic deltaic regions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Multivariate Analyses of Water Quality Dynamics Over Four Decades in the Barataria Basin, Mississippi Delta
Water 2020, 12(11), 3143; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12113143 - 10 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 559
Abstract
Here we examine a combined dataset of water quality dynamics in the Barataria Basin, Louisiana based on transect studies from 1977 to 1978 (Seaton) and from 1994 to 2016. The Davis Pond river diversion into Lake Cataouatche began discharging Mississippi River water into [...] Read more.
Here we examine a combined dataset of water quality dynamics in the Barataria Basin, Louisiana based on transect studies from 1977 to 1978 (Seaton) and from 1994 to 2016. The Davis Pond river diversion into Lake Cataouatche began discharging Mississippi River water into the mid-basin in 2005, and so the later dataset was divided in Pre- and Post-diversion periods. The stations from these three datasets (Seaton, Pre- and Post-diversion) were combined into eleven station groupings for statistical analysis that included ANOVA and principal component analysis. In addition, Trophic State Index (TSI) scores were calculated for each grouping during the three time periods. Lake Cataouatche changed the most with the opening of the Davis Pond river diversion, becoming clearer and less eutrophic with addition of river water, which passed through a large wetland area where sediments were retained before entering the lake. The TSI results for the Seaton re-analysis were very similar to the original analysis and to that of the Pre- and Post-diversion datasets, indicating that the trophic status of the basin waters has remained relatively unchanged. The upper-basin has remained eutrophic with degraded water quality while the lower-basin has remained more mesotrophic without significant water quality deterioration. A main cause of water quality deterioration is agricultural runoff and pervasive hydrologic alteration that bypasses wetlands and causes most runoff to flow directly into water bodies. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Ecological Degradation of the Yangtze and Nile Delta-Estuaries in Response to Dam Construction with Special Reference to Monsoonal and Arid Climate Settings
Water 2021, 13(9), 1145; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13091145 - 21 Apr 2021
Viewed by 283
Abstract
This study reviews the monsoonal Yangtze and the arid Nile deltas with the objective of understanding how the process–response between river-basin modifications and delta-estuary ecological degradation are interrelated under contrasting hydroclimate dynamics. Our analysis shows that the Yangtze River had a long-term stepwise [...] Read more.
This study reviews the monsoonal Yangtze and the arid Nile deltas with the objective of understanding how the process–response between river-basin modifications and delta-estuary ecological degradation are interrelated under contrasting hydroclimate dynamics. Our analysis shows that the Yangtze River had a long-term stepwise reduction in sediment and silicate fluxes to estuary due to dam construction since the 1960s, especially after the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) closed in 2003. By contrast, the Nile had a drastic reduction of sediment, freshwater, and silicate fluxes immediately after the construction of the Aswan High Dam (AHD) in 1964. Seasonal rainfall in the mid-lower Yangtze basin (below TGD) complemented riverine materials to its estuary, but little was available to the Nile coast below the AHD in the hyper-arid climate setting. Nitrogen (N) and phosphate (P) fluxes in both river basins have increased because of the overuse of N- and P-fertilizer, land-use changes, urbanization, and industrialization. Nutrient ratios (N:P:Si) in both delta-estuaries was greatly altered, i.e., Yangtze case: 75:1:946 (1960s–1970s), 86:1:272 (1980s–1990s) and 102:1:75 (2000s–2010s); and Nile case: 6:1:32 (1960s–1970s), 8:1:9 (1980s–1990s), and 45:1:22 (2013), in the context of the optimum of Redfield ratio (N:P:Si = 16:1:16). This led to an ecological regime shift evidenced by a long-term change in phytoplankton communities in the Yangtze estuary, where silicious algae tended to lose dominance since the end of the 1990s, when more toxic dinoflagellates began to emerge. In the Nile estuary, such a regime shift was indicated by the post-dam dramatic reduction in zooplankton standing crop and fish landings until the early 2000s when biological recovery occurred due to nutrient inputs from anthropogenic sources. Although the Yangtze had higher human impacts than the Nile in terms of population, industrialization, and fertilizer application, N concentrations in the Nile estuarine waters surpassed the Yangtze in recent decades. However, eutrophication in the Yangtze estuary is much more intensive than in the Nile, leading to the likelihood of its estuarine water becoming more acidic than ever before. Therefore, ecological degradation in both delta-estuaries does not follow a linear trajectory, due not only to different climate dynamics but also to human forcings. The comparative insights of this study should be incorporated into future integrated coastal management of these two important systems. Full article
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Open AccessReview
A Review of 50 Years of Study of Hydrology, Wetland Dynamics, Aquatic Metabolism, Water Quality and Trophic Status, and Nutrient Biogeochemistry in the Barataria Basin, Mississippi Delta—System Functioning, Human Impacts and Restoration Approaches
Water 2021, 13(5), 642; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13050642 - 27 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 694
Abstract
Here we review an extensive series of studies of Barataria Basin, an economically and ecologically important coastal basin of the Mississippi Delta. Human activity has greatly altered the hydrology of the basin by decreasing riverine inflows from leveeing of the river and its [...] Read more.
Here we review an extensive series of studies of Barataria Basin, an economically and ecologically important coastal basin of the Mississippi Delta. Human activity has greatly altered the hydrology of the basin by decreasing riverine inflows from leveeing of the river and its distributaries, increasing runoff with high nutrient concentrations from agricultural fields, and channelization of wetlands of the basin interior that has altered flow paths to often bypass wetlands. This has resulted in degraded water quality in the upper basin and wetland loss in the lower basin. Trophic state analysis found the upper basin to be eutrophic and the lower basin to be mesotrophic. Gross aquatic primary production (GAPP) was highest in the upper basin, lowest in the mid basin, and intermediate in the lower basin. Forested wetlands in the upper basin have degraded over the past several decades due to increased periods of flooding, while there has been massive loss of emergent wetlands in the lower basin due to increasing water levels and pervasive alteration of hydrology. Restoration will entail reconnection of waterways with surrounding wetlands in the upper basin, and implementation of river sediment diversions, marsh creation using dredged sediments and barrier island restoration. Findings from this review are discussed in terms of the functioning of deltas globally. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperEditor’s ChoiceReview
Life Cycle of Oil and Gas Fields in the Mississippi River Delta: A Review
Water 2020, 12(5), 1492; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12051492 - 23 May 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1116
Abstract
Oil and gas (O&G) activity has been pervasive in the Mississippi River Delta (MRD). Here we review the life cycle of O&G fields in the MRD focusing on the production history and resulting environmental impacts and show how cumulative impacts affect coastal ecosystems. [...] Read more.
Oil and gas (O&G) activity has been pervasive in the Mississippi River Delta (MRD). Here we review the life cycle of O&G fields in the MRD focusing on the production history and resulting environmental impacts and show how cumulative impacts affect coastal ecosystems. Individual fields can last 40–60 years and most wells are in the final stages of production. Production increased rapidly reaching a peak around 1970 and then declined. Produced water lagged O&G and was generally higher during declining O&G production, making up about 70% of total liquids. Much of the wetland loss in the delta is associated with O&G activities. These have contributed in three major ways to wetland loss including alteration of surface hydrology, induced subsidence due to fluids removal and fault activation, and toxic stress due to spilled oil and produced water. Changes in surface hydrology are related to canal dredging and spoil placement. As canal density increases, the density of natural channels decreases. Interconnected canal networks often lead to saltwater intrusion. Spoil banks block natural overland flow affecting exchange of water, sediments, chemicals, and organisms. Lower wetland productivity and reduced sediment input leads to enhanced surficial subsidence. Spoil banks are not permanent but subside and compact over time and many spoil banks no longer have subaerial expression. Fluid withdrawal from O&G formations leads to induced subsidence and fault activation. Formation pore pressure decreases, which lowers the lateral confining stress acting in the formation due to poroelastic coupling between pore pressure and stress. This promotes normal faulting in an extensional geological environment like the MRD, which causes surface subsidence in the vicinity of the faults. Induced reservoir compaction results in a reduction of reservoir thickness. Induced subsidence occurs in two phases especially when production rate is high. The first phase is compaction of the reservoir itself while the second phase is caused by a slow drainage of pore pressure in bounding shales that induces time-delayed subsidence associated with shale compaction. This second phase can continue for decades, even after most O&G has been produced, resulting in subsidence over much of an oil field that can be greater than surface subsidence due to altered hydrology. Produced water is water brought to the surface during O&G extraction and an estimated 2 million barrels per day were discharged into Louisiana coastal wetlands and waters from nearly 700 sites. This water is a mixture of either liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons, high salinity (up to 300 ppt) water, dissolved and suspended solids such as sand or silt, and injected fluids and additives associated with exploration and production activities and it is toxic to many estuarine organisms including vegetation and fauna. Spilled oil has lethal and sub-lethal effects on a wide range of estuarine organisms. The cumulative effect of alterations in surface hydrology, induced subsidence, and toxins interact such that overall impacts are enhanced. Restoration of coastal wetlands degraded by O&G activities should be informed by these impacts. Full article
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