Couvillion, B.R.; Steyer, G.D.; Wang, H.; Beck, H.J., and Rybczyk, J.M., 2013. Forecasting the effects of coastal protection and restoration projects on wetland morphology in coastal Louisiana under multiple environmental uncertainty scenarios.
Few landscape scale models have assessed the effects of coastal protection and restoration projects on wetland morphology while taking into account important uncertainties in environmental factors such as sea-level rise (SLR) and subsidence. In support of Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan, we developed a spatially explicit wetland morphology model and coupled it with other predictive models. The model is capable of predicting effects of protection and restoration projects on wetland area, landscape configuration, surface elevation, and soil organic carbon (SOC) storage under multiple environmental uncertainty scenarios. These uncertainty scenarios included variability in parameters such as eustatic SLR (ESLR), subsidence rate, and Mississippi River discharge. Models were run for a 2010–2060 simulation period. Model results suggest that under a “future-without-action” condition (FWOA), coastal Louisiana is at risk of losing between 2118 and 4677 km2 of land over the next 50 years, but with protection and restoration projects proposed in the Master Plan, between 40% and 75% of that loss could be mitigated. Moreover, model results indicate that under a FWOA condition, SOC storage (to a depth of 1 m) could decrease by between 108 and 250 million metric tons, a loss of 12% to 30% of the total coastwide SOC, but with the Master Plan implemented, between 35% and 74% of the SOC loss could be offset. Long-term maintenance of project effects was best attained in areas of low SLR and subsidence, with a sediment source to support marsh accretion. Our findings suggest that despite the efficacy of restoration projects in mitigating losses in certain areas, net loss of wetlands in coastal Louisiana is likely to continue. Model results suggest certain areas may eventually be lost regardless of proposed restoration investment, and, as such, other techniques and strategies of adaptation may have to be utilized in these areas.