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8 June 2011 Hurricane Impacts on Coastal Wetlands: A Half-Century Record of Storm-Generated Features from Southern Louisiana
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Abstract
Temporally and spatially repeated patterns of wetland erosion, deformation, and deposition are observed on remotely sensed images and in the field after hurricanes cross the coast of Louisiana. The diagnostic morphological wetland features are products of the coupling of high-velocity wind and storm-surge water and their interaction with the underlying, variably resistant, wetland vegetation and soils. Erosional signatures include construction of orthogonal-elongate ponds and amorphous ponds, pond expansion, plucked marsh, marsh denudation, and shoreline erosion. Post-storm gravity reflux of floodwater draining from the wetlands forms dendritic incisions around the pond margins and locally integrates drainage pathways forming braided channels. Depositional signatures include emplacement of broad zones of organic wrack on topographic highs and inorganic deposits of variable thicknesses and lateral extents in the form of shore-parallel sandy washover terraces and interior-marsh mud blankets. Deformational signatures primarily involve laterally compressed marsh and displaced marsh mats and balls. Prolonged water impoundment and marsh salinization also are common impacts associated with wetland flooding by extreme storms. Many of the wetland features become legacies that record prior storm impacts and locally influence subsequent storm-induced morphological changes. Wetland losses caused by hurricane impacts depend directly on impact duration, which is controlled by the diameter of hurricane-force winds, forward speed of the storm, and wetland distance over which the storm passes. Distinguishing between wetland losses caused by storm impacts and losses associated with long-term delta-plain processes is critical for accurate modeling and prediction of future conversion of land to open water.
Robert A. Morton and John A. Barras "Hurricane Impacts on Coastal Wetlands: A Half-Century Record of Storm-Generated Features from Southern Louisiana," Journal of Coastal Research (JCR) 27(6A), (8 June 2011). https://doi.org/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-10-00185.1
Received: 9 December 2010; Accepted: 8 February 2011; Published: 8 June 2011
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