A ‘collapse’ is looming for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, scientists say – the Washington Post

Caminada Back Barrier Marsh Creation (Courtesy of Louisianan Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED Flickr).
Caminada Back Barrier Marsh Creation (Courtesy of Louisianan Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED Flickr).


Scientists say the overwhelming majority of the state’s wetlands — a natural buffer against hurricanes — are in a state of ‘drowning’ and could be gone by 2070.

Rapidly rising seas are wreaking havoc on Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, and could devastate three-quarters of the state’s natural buffer against hurricanes in the coming decades, scientists found in a study published Thursday.

The new research documents how a sudden burst of sea level rise over the past 13 years — the type of surge once not expected until later this century — has left the overwhelming majority of the state’s coastal wetland sites in a state of current or expected “drowning,” where the seas are rising faster than wetlands can grow.

“We [can] treat the past decade or so like a really large-scale natural experiment, trying to evaluate how the natural system responds to such a high rate of sea level rise,” said Guandong Li, the lead author of a group of scientists at Tulane University who published the study Thursday in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers arrived at their findings based on measurements of sea and wetland heights at 253 sites throughout coastal Louisiana. “Over the past decade, about 90 percent of the monitoring sites are unable to keep pace with the water level nearby,” Li said.

The news is dire for a state that has already lost over 2,000 square miles of wetland area since 1932, bringing the ocean ever closer to New Orleans and other population centers and leaving them more vulnerable to storms. Louisiana has launched major efforts to restore its coastal wetlands, replete with billion-dollar expenditures and massive engineering projects — but the state could also use a little help from the Earth itself.

The new research suggests the opposite is happening.

“If this rate of sea level rise continues for another 10 or 20 years, then we would probably lose the vast majority of our wetlands in that time period,” said Torbjorn Tornqvist, a Tulane wetlands expert and the second of the study’s three authors, along with sea level expert Sonke Dangendorf…

 Also see

Louisiana could be ‘canary in the coal mine’ for rising seas Washington Post (04-10-2023): 

Multiple new studies highlight a rate of unprecedented sea level rise along the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern U.S. coast. In Louisiana, some warn that as climate change accelerates other parts of the U.S. might see similar impacts.


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