ABSTRACT

Potter, C. and Amer, R., 2020. Mapping 30 years of change in the marshlands of Breton Sound basin (southeastern Louisiana, U.S.A.): Coastal land area and vegetation green cover. Journal of Coastal Research, 36(3), 437–450. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

This study analyzes the 30-year record of Landsat satellite imagery to better understand the patterns and processes of land loss/gain and recent changes in marshland vegetation green cover in coastal wetlands of Breton Sound basin of southeastern Louisiana. Impacted by both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Gustav in 2008, this vast estuary area just south of New Orleans was mapped at 30 m resolution in 5-year intervals from 1985 to 2017 using the Landsat Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI) and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Results revealed an entirely new picture of marshland change prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav in the Breton Sound basin. Following decades of extensive wetland loss resulting largely from gas and oil well drilling and canal construction, this analysis estimated gains in land area between 1985 and 2005 (pre-Katrina) of 247 km2 across all subbasins of Breton Sound. The largest proportional increases in marshland areas were mapped from dNDWI analysis in the subbasins of Bayou la Loutre, Bayou Pointe-en-Pointe, and Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs, all surrounding the outer Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Canal. Brackish salinity areas were among the first of Louisiana's coastal wetlands to succumb to the hurricane storm surges of 2005 and 2008, as Landsat dNDWI analysis estimated that about 245 km2 of wetlands in the Breton Sound basin were lost to open water from the impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. However, combined dNDWI and dNDVI analysis indicated that gains in marshland area and green vegetation cover have occurred at a yearly rate of increase after 2008 comparable to the period between 1985 and 2005. Specific areas of rapid land gain were detected in River aux Chenes and Bayou Bienvenue subbasins, and Bayou Plaquemines and Bayou la Loutre in brackish to saltwater marshland types on the outer margins of Breton Sound basin.

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