The Science Program of CRCL includes a range of interdisciplinary projects that address coastal land loss and fisheries. Rapid land loss (42.9 km2 y-1 from 1985 to 2010; Couvillion et al. 2011) has led to Louisiana accounting for 80% of total coastal wetland loss in the U.S. (Boesch et al. 1994). Humans have altered the coastal ecosystem for centuries through levees, impoundments, canals, and river diversions. The coastal wetlands of Louisiana help supply one of the largest commercial fishing industries in the nation and with that nearly 30,000 jobs (National Marine Fisheries Service 2010). Many livelihoods are dependent on the resiliency of Louisiana’s marshes and the health of the coastal ecosystem is dependent on the adaptive management capacity of humans.
Photo Credit: Diane Huhn
Restoration science has evolved in recent years away from attempting to engineer the coast to working with nature to enhance natural marsh resiliency. Restoring the natural hydrology of coastal marshes allows the coast to withstand chronic and acute disturbances such as sea level rise, hurricanes, and oil spills.
Coastal land loss and the restoration efforts to curb this land loss both contribute to the uncertain future of important Louisiana fisheries such as brown shrimp and oysters. CRCL is working with coastal communities to gain a better understanding of the impacts of these stressors on fisheries and to identify ways in which those dependent on the harvest of certain species can plan for the future.
Monitoring & Adaptive Management
Coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana have accelerated in the last 10 years. With that comes the need to monitor the success of these projects and push for adaptive management if data show they are not working as intended.
Land Loss &
Knowing the historical resiliency of a system and how it has changed with human impact, as well as how the system responds to disturbances, is important in determining strategies for restoration and management.