Potter, 0000. Remote sensing of wetland area loss and gain in the western Barataria Basin (Louisiana, U.S.A.) since Hurricane Katrina. Journal of Coastal Research, 00(0), 000‐ 000. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
The goal of this study was to analyze the recent record of Landsat satellite imagery to better understand spatial patterns and infer processes of change in marshland vegetation cover in coastal Louisiana wetlands. The study area covered subbasins of the western Barataria Basin near the Bayou Lafourche in southeastern Louisiana. Bayou Lafourche's estuaries have seen some of the highest rates of wetland conversion to open water of any coastal zone in the United States. The Landsat Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI) was used in this study to map changes in land/water fractions at a 30-m pixel resolution between October 2005 (post-Katrina) and October 2018. Validation boat surveys were conducted in July 2020 to visually verify the presence or absence of (>1 m) emergent vegetation growing on marshlands across several subbasins, with photographs collected at more than 150 target locations along the route. Based on NDWI change, a total of 42.3 km2 was estimated to fall into the category of wetland loss since 2005. The leading subbasins for these recent wetland-to-water conversions made up most of the southwestern portion of the study area just north of Port Fourchon. The consistently low distance detected between the majority of wetland loss cells and locations of historical oil and gas wells implies that effects of well drilling and extraction have had a continuing negative impact on marshland degradation in the basin. Conversely, a total of 34 km2 was estimated to fall into the category of recent wetland gain, with much of the new vegetation growth verified to have been restored within several shoreline protection and dredging projects. It was concluded that the positive contributions made by such shoreline enhancement and marshland nourishment projects in Lafourche Parish to offset wetland losses over the past 15 years should not be underestimated.