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The Louisiana Wetlands Are Struggling to Stay Above Water

Sea levels continue to rise.

SCIENCE AF STAFF
4 SEP 2017
 

The Louisiana wetlands are struggling to stay above water as sea-levels continue to rise.

The looming threat of climate change has caused a dangerous rise in ocean water levels across the globe. And coastal regions in the USA are no exception.

 

For the past decade, the sea level on the coast of Louisiana has risen, on average, about half an inch per year.

While this may not seem like much, a new study from Tulane University has found that without major efforts to rebuild the state's wetlands, there is little chance that the coast will be able to withstand the encroaching ocean.

This is especially the case in the westernmost part of the state.

"In the Mississippi Delta, about 65 percent of study sites are probably still keeping pace, but in the westernmost part of coastal Louisiana, more than 60 percent of sites are on track to drown," said Torbjörn E. Törnqvist, a co-author of the study.

In order to measure the rate of sea-level rise in the region, the researchers developed a groundbreaking method that could help other regions affected by rising sea-levels.

The researchers began by measuring the shallow subsidence rates of nearly 300 sites across the coast of Louisiana. They then compared these readings with published GPS-measurements of deeper subsidence rates and satellite observations of the sea-level rise in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

The researchers were then able to calculate how rapidly the sea level is rising in Louisiana.

"The bottom line is that in order to assess how dire the situation is in Louisiana, this new dataset is a huge step forward compared to anything we've done before," said Törnqvist.

This new method will provide scientists with an early indication of what could occur in coastal regions throughout the country as sea-levels continue to rise.

The next step is to come up with a way to keep the Louisiana wetlands afloat.

But we better hurry, or these beautiful wetlands could be lost forever.