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      Landscape-Scale Analysis of Wetland Sediment Deposition from Four Tropical Cyclone Events

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          Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike deposited large quantities of sediment on coastal wetlands after making landfall in the northern Gulf of Mexico. We sampled sediments deposited on the wetland surface throughout the entire Louisiana and Texas depositional surfaces of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and the Louisiana portion of Hurricane Ike. We used spatial interpolation to model the total amount and spatial distribution of inorganic sediment deposition from each storm. The sediment deposition on coastal wetlands was an estimated 68, 48, and 21 million metric tons from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustav, respectively. The spatial distribution decreased in a similar manner with distance from the coast for all hurricanes, but the relationship with distance from the storm track was more variable between events. The southeast-facing Breton Sound estuary had significant storm-derived sediment deposition west of the storm track, whereas sediment deposition along the south-facing coastline occurred primarily east of the storm track. Sediment organic content, bulk density, and grain size also decreased significantly with distance from the coast, but were also more variable with respect to distance from the track. On average, eighty percent of the mineral deposition occurred within 20 km from the coast, and 58% was within 50 km of the track. These results highlight an important link between tropical cyclone events and coastal wetland sedimentation, and are useful in identifying a more complete sediment budget for coastal wetland soils.

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          The Protective Role of Coastal Marshes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

          Background Salt marshes lie between many human communities and the coast and have been presumed to protect these communities from coastal hazards by providing important ecosystem services. However, previous characterizations of these ecosystem services have typically been based on a small number of historical studies, and the consistency and extent to which marshes provide these services has not been investigated. Here, we review the current evidence for the specific processes of wave attenuation, shoreline stabilization and floodwater attenuation to determine if and under what conditions salt marshes offer these coastal protection services. Methodology/Principal Findings We conducted a thorough search and synthesis of the literature with reference to these processes. Seventy-five publications met our selection criteria, and we conducted meta-analyses for publications with sufficient data available for quantitative analysis. We found that combined across all studies (n = 7), salt marsh vegetation had a significant positive effect on wave attenuation as measured by reductions in wave height per unit distance across marsh vegetation. Salt marsh vegetation also had a significant positive effect on shoreline stabilization as measured by accretion, lateral erosion reduction, and marsh surface elevation change (n = 30). Salt marsh characteristics that were positively correlated to both wave attenuation and shoreline stabilization were vegetation density, biomass production, and marsh size. Although we could not find studies quantitatively evaluating floodwater attenuation within salt marshes, there are several studies noting the negative effects of wetland alteration on water quantity regulation within coastal areas. Conclusions/Significance Our results show that salt marshes have value for coastal hazard mitigation and climate change adaptation. Because we do not yet fully understand the magnitude of this value, we propose that decision makers employ natural systems to maximize the benefits and ecosystem services provided by salt marshes and exercise caution when making decisions that erode these services.
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            Wetland sedimentation from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

            More than 131 x 10(6) metric tons (MT) of inorganic sediments accumulated in coastal wetlands when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita crossed the Louisiana coast in 2005, plus another 281 x 10(6) MT when accumulation was prorated for open water area. The annualized combined amount of inorganic sediments per hurricane equals (i) 12% of the Mississippi River's suspended load, (ii) 5.5 times the inorganic load delivered by overbank flooding before flood protection levees were constructed, and (iii) 227 times the amount introduced by a river diversion built for wetland restoration. The accumulation from hurricanes is sufficient to account for all the inorganic sediments in healthy saltmarsh wetlands.
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              Hurricane-induced failure of low salinity wetlands.

              During the 2005 hurricane season, the storm surge and wave field associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita eroded 527 km(2) of wetlands within the Louisiana coastal plain. Low salinity wetlands were preferentially eroded, while higher salinity wetlands remained robust and largely unchanged. Here we highlight geotechnical differences between the soil profiles of high and low salinity regimes, which are controlled by vegetation and result in differential erosion. In low salinity wetlands, a weak zone (shear strength 500-1450 Pa) was observed approximately 30 cm below the marsh surface, coinciding with the base of rooting. High salinity wetlands had no such zone (shear strengths > 4500 Pa) and contained deeper rooting. Storm waves during Hurricane Katrina produced shear stresses between 425-3600 Pa, sufficient to cause widespread erosion of the low salinity wetlands. Vegetation in low salinity marshes is subject to shallower rooting and is susceptible to erosion during large magnitude storms; these conditions may be exacerbated by low inorganic sediment content and high nutrient inputs. The dramatic difference in resiliency of fresh versus more saline marshes suggests that the introduction of freshwater to marshes as part of restoration efforts may therefore weaken existing wetlands rendering them vulnerable to hurricanes.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                21 November 2012
                : 7
                : 11
                Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast and Environment, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States of America
                Kenya Medical Research Institute - Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: RET AWT. Performed the experiments: RET AWT. Analyzed the data: AWT. Wrote the paper: AWT RET.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Pages: 10
                Support was provided to A.T. by a Louisiana Board of Regents ( Graduate Student Fellowship. Funds to collect the field data came from the NSF Division of Geomorphology and Land-Use Dynamics Awards #EAR-0612501 and #0900888 ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Spatial and Landscape Ecology
                Plant Science
                Plant Ecology
                Plant-Environment Interactions
                Earth Sciences
                Atmospheric Science
                Landform Dynamics
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Coastal Ecology



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