Visser, J.M.; Duke-Sylvester, S.M.; Carter, J., and Broussard, W.P., III, 2013. A computer model to forecast wetland vegetation changes resulting from restoration and protection in coastal Louisiana.
The coastal wetlands of Louisiana are a unique ecosystem that supports a diversity of wildlife as well as a diverse community of commercial interests of both local and national importance. The state of Louisiana has established a 5-year cycle of scientific investigation to provide up-to-date information to guide future legislation and regulation aimed at preserving this critical ecosystem. Here we report on a model that projects changes in plant community distribution and composition in response to environmental conditions. This model is linked to a suite of other models and requires input from those that simulate the hydrology and morphology of coastal Louisiana. Collectively, these models are used to assess how alternative management plans may affect the wetland ecosystem through explicit spatial modeling of the physical and biological processes affected by proposed modifications to the ecosystem. We have also taken the opportunity to advance the state-of-the-art in wetland plant community modeling by using a model that is more species-based in its description of plant communities instead of one based on aggregated community types such as brackish marsh and saline marsh. The resulting model provides an increased level of ecological detail about how wetland communities are expected to respond. In addition, the output from this model provides critical inputs for estimating the effects of management on higher trophic level species though a more complete description of the shifts in habitat.