Louisiana Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring Program: Mapping Habitats in Beach, Dune, and Intertidal Environments Along the Louisiana Gulf of Mexico Shoreline, 2008 and 2015–16

Open-File Report 2020-1030
Prepared in cooperation with the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
By: , and 



Barrier islands, headlands, and coastal shorelines provide numerous valuable ecosystem goods and services, including storm protection and erosion control for the mainland, habitat for fish and wildlife, salinity regulation in estuaries, carbon sequestration in marshes, and areas for recreation and tourism. These coastal features are dynamic environments because of their position at the land-sea interface. Storms, wave energy, tides, currents, and relative sea-level rise are powerful forces that shape local geomorphology and habitat distribution. In order to make more informed decisions, coastal resource managers require insights into how these dynamic systems are changing through time.

In 2005, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in partnership with the University of New Orleans and the U.S. Geological Survey, developed the Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring (BICM) Program. The goal of the BICM Program is to develop long-term datasets for habitat coverage, shoreline assessments, shoreline position, topobathymetric changes, and sediment characterization to assist with planning, designing, evaluating, and maintaining current and future barrier shorelines. The overall objectives of the study described in this report were to (1) map habitats for 2008 and 2015–16 for BICM coastal reaches and (2) map habitat change between these two time periods.

This report highlights the second phase of habitat analyses for the BICM Program. This work builds on a previous habitat analysis conducted by the University of New Orleans, which included the development of habitat maps for 1996/1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005, along with habitat change maps. For this current effort, a new 15-class habitat scheme was developed from the original BICM scheme to further delineate various dune habitats, including meadow habitat found along the backslopes of dunes, to distinguish between marsh and mangrove, and to distinguish between beach and unvegetated barrier flat habitats. Additionally, a geographic object-based image analysis-based mapping framework was used to incorporate relative topography and address elevation uncertainty in light detection and ranging data to assist with mapping dune and intertidal habitats.

For the entire BICM region, the area experiencing a change in a land/water category (that is, land gain or land loss) was 3.4 percent, of which, 59.2 percent was land gain and 40.8 percent was land loss. Areal coverages of meadow, mangrove, scrub/shrub, and vegetated dune increased from 2008 to 2015–16, whereas areal coverages of beach, grassland, and intertidal decreased. The decrease in intertidal, however, was largely due to differing water levels in the orthophotography between the two time periods. Regional analyses of habitat coverage and habitat change captured the dynamic nature of these systems and the effects of restoration efforts, most notably in the Late Lafourche Delta, Modern Delta, and Chandeleur Islands regions. For instance, in the Modern Delta region there was a marked increase in unvegetated flat, meadow, mangrove, scrub/shrub, beach, unvegetated dune, and vegetated dune. As a result, this region experienced the highest percent change for land/water classes (6.6 percent) with land gain accounting for much of this change (70.8 percent). In contrast, the Acadiana Bays region had the highest relative percent loss of all regions. The region had a percent change for land/water classes of 2.8 percent, of which, 79.7 percent was land loss.

The results of this study provide information about the areal coverage and distribution of habitats for two recent time periods and change over about an 8-year period. These data can be used to evaluate changes along the Louisiana Gulf of Mexico shoreline, including gradual changes caused by coastal processes, restoration actions, and (or) episodic events, such as hurricanes and extreme storms.

Suggested Citation

Enwright, N.M., SooHoo, W.M., Dugas, J.L., Conzelmann, C.P., Laurenzano, C., Lee, D.M., Mouton, K., and Stelly, S.J., 2020, Louisiana Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring Program—Mapping habitats in beach, dune, and intertidal environments along the Louisiana Gulf of Mexico shoreline, 2008 and 2015–16: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1030, 57 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20201030.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results and Discussion
  • Future Efforts
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Louisiana Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring Program: Mapping habitats in beach, dune, and intertidal environments along the Louisiana Gulf of Mexico shoreline, 2008 and 2015–16
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2020-1030
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201030
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description Report: ix, 57 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Louisiana
Other Geospatial Gulf of Mexico shoreline
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details