Louisiana wetlands struggling with sea-level rise 4 times the global average

March 14, 2017

Without major efforts to rebuild Louisiana's wetlands, particularly in the westernmost part of the state, there is little chance that the coast will be able to withstand the accelerating rate of sea-level rise, a new Tulane University study concludes.

The study by researchers in Tulane's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and published in the open-access journal Nature Communications shows that the rate of sea-level rise in the region over the past six to 10 years amounts to half an inch per year on average.

"In the Mississippi Delta, about 65 percent of study sites are probably still keeping pace, but in the westernmost part of coastal Louisiana, more than 60 percent of sites are on track to drown," said Tulane geology professor Torbjörn E. Törnqvist, a co-author of the study.

Törnqvist conducted the research with lead author and PhD candidate Krista L. Jankowski and co-author Anjali M. Fernandes, a former postdoc in Törnqvist's group who is now at the University of Connecticut.

The researchers used an unconventional method to measure sea-level change that integrated information from different data sources. They analyzed measurements of shallow subsidence rates at 274 sites across the coast and combined these with published GPS-measurements of deeper subsidence rates. Adding published satellite observations of the rise of the sea surface in the Gulf of Mexico, they were able to calculate how rapidly sea level is rising with respect to the coastal wetland surface.

"The bottom line is that in order to assess how dire the situation is in Louisiana, this new dataset is a huge step forward compared to anything we've done before," Törnqvist said.

Justin Lawrence of the National Science Foundation, which provided funding for the study, agreed.

"These researchers have developed a new method of evaluating whether coastal marshes in Louisiana will be submerged by rising sea levels," Lawrence said. "The findings suggest that a large portion of coastal marshes in Louisiana are vulnerable to present-day sea-level rise. This work may provide an early indication of what is to occur in coastal regions around the world later this century."

A link to the research article can be found here.
-end-
The research was made possible through publicly available data collected under the auspices of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the US Geological Survey.

Tulane University

Related Wetlands Articles from Brightsurf:

Droughts are threatening global wetlands: new study
University of Adelaide scientists have shown how droughts are threatening the health of wetlands globally.

Tiger snakes tell more about local wetlands' pollution levels
Tiger snakes living in Perth's urban wetlands are accumulating toxic heavy metals in their livers, suggesting that their habitats -- critical, local ecosystems -- are contaminated and the species may be suffering as a result.

Whooping cranes form larger flocks as wetlands are lost -- and it may put them at risk
Over the past few decades, the endangered whooping crane (Grus Americana) has experienced considerable recovery.

Satellite image data reveals rapid decline of China's intertidal wetlands
Researchers from the school of Geographical Sciences at Guangzhou University have revealed the stark decline of China's intertidal wetlands by studying archives of satellite imaging data.

Biodiversity has substantially changed in one of the largest Mediterranean wetlands
The Camargue area in France has considerably fewer grasshopper, cricket, locust, dragonfly, and amphibian species than 40 years ago.

Wetlands will keep up with sea level rise to offset climate change
Sediment accrual rates in coastal wetlands will outpace sea level rise, enabling wetlands to increase their capacity to sequester carbon, a study from the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, shows.

Microbe from New Jersey wetlands chomps PFAS
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are building up in the environment, and scientists are becoming concerned.

Unexpected culprit -- wetlands as source of methane
Knowing how emissions are created can help reduce them.

Using the past to unravel the future for Arctic wetlands
A new study has used partially fossilised plants and single-celled organisms to investigate the effects of climate change on the Canadian High Arctic wetlands and help predict their future.

UC researchers find ancient Maya farms in Mexican wetlands
Archaeologists with the University of Cincinnati used the latest technology to find evidence suggesting ancient Maya people grew surplus crops to support an active trade with neighbors up and down the Yucatan Peninsula.

Read More: Wetlands News and Wetlands Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.