Hurricane impacts on coastal wetlands: A half-century record of storm-generated features from southern Louisiana

Journal of Coastal Research
By:  and 



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.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hurricane impacts on coastal wetlands: A half-century record of storm-generated features from southern Louisiana
Series title Journal of Coastal Research
DOI 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-10-00185.1
Volume 27
Issue 6A
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Coastal Education and Research Foundation
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 17 p.
First page 27
Last page 43
Country United States
State Louisiana
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