SPCMSC scientists publish paper documenting recent historical evolution of the northern Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana

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SPCMSC geologist Julie Bernier, with co-authors Jennifer Miselis and Nathaniel Plant, published a paper, "Satellite-Derived Barrier Response and Recovery Following Natural and Anthropogenic Perturbations, Northern Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana," documenting recent historical evolution (since 1984) of this barrier-island system based on analysis of Landsat satellite imagery. 

Two satellite images from different years shown side by side for comparison

Left, Landsat 5 satellite image acquired 25-March-1984, and right, Landsat 8 satellite image acquired 10-January-2019, show subaerial configuration of the northern Chandeleur Islands at the beginning and end of the analysis period, respectively. The false-color images use bands 4, 5, 3 (Landsat 5) or 5, 6, 3 (Landsat 8). (Image courtesy of Remote Sensing, CC BY 4.0, Public domain with proper credit.)

Barrier islands play important roles as nesting habitats for shorebirds and other wildlife and act as a physical barrier to protect mainland shorelines and their communities from the impacts of storm waves and erosion. Although essential for modeling future change, understanding of decadal-scale evolution of barrier systems is often poorly constrained and commonly focuses on short-term changes following extreme storms. Landsat satellite imagery provides a consistent, long term, high temporal resolution data source that can be used to analyze historical changes to barrier landscapes. The Chandeleur Islands, located east of the Mississippi River delta in the northern Gulf of Mexico, have experienced significant shoreline erosion, island narrowing, and land loss in recent decades, much of which has been attributed to extreme storms such as Hurricane Katrina (2005).

This study focused on developing automated techniques to assess satellite-derived land-cover changes at the northern Chandeleur Islands and puts recent changes in important historical (since 1984) context. The results show decadal-scale land-cover oscillations related to storm–recovery cycles, demonstrate the importance of vegetation extent and persistence as controls on landscape response and recovery following storms, and indicate that the northern Chandeleur Islands are transitioning to a new morphologic state in which the landscape is dominated by intertidal environments. The methods developed during this study provide new tools that can be used to monitor changes to coastal systems, and the results help inform coastal managers about the current state and future of barrier islands so they can make decisions regarding coastal resilience, habitat protection, and sediment management actions. 

To read the paper visit: "Satellite-Derived Barrier Response and Recovery Following Natural and Anthropogenic Perturbations, Northern Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana"

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