Land loss by pond expansion on the Mississippi River Delta Plain

The world’s river deltas may collapse under the combined effects of rising sea levels, subsidence, and reduced sediment supply. Saving these deltaic environments requires quantifying processes driving collapse. In the Mississippi River Delta, rapid land loss offers an important opportunity to test existing theories for marsh collapse. We use Landsat images to examine how pond expansion by edge retreat contributes to land loss over 34 years in the Atchafalaya-Vermillion, Terrebonne, and Barataria basins of the Mississippi Delta. Tracking the area changes in ponds on the marsh surface, we find a striking consistency between pond expansion direction and the dominant wind direction and show that wind-generated waves are capable of causing edge erosion. Expansion rate increases rapidly for ponds wider than 300 m in Terrebonne and Barataria basins. From this, we suggest that ponds in Atchafalaya-Vermillion basin are stable, whereas ponds in Terrebonne and Barataria are unstable.

Publication Date:
Apr 24 2017
Date Submitted:
Feb 22 2019
Geophysical Research Letters

 Record created 2019-02-22, last modified 2019-04-03

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