Gulf of Mexico Land Loss Change Assessment: A Cooperative Study with the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management

Science Center Objects

Eighty-five percent of the coastal wetland loss in the contiguous United States occurs in the Gulf of Mexico. Documenting and understanding the occurrence of this wetland loss will provide for effective planning, mitigation, and restoration activities.

Gulf of Mexico Land Loss Change Assessment

The study area will consist of the coastal zone (defined by the federal water boundary and a 10-m topographic contour) of the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to the border of the Atlantic Coast in Florida.

The Science Issue and Relevance: Eighty-five percent of the coastal wetland loss in the contiguous United States occurs in the Gulf of Mexico. Documenting and understanding the occurrence of this wetland loss will provide for effective planning, mitigation, and restoration activities. This research will provide a comprehensive analysis of the extent in land-water change throughout the coastal zone of the northern Gulf of Mexico. This work is relevant to the USGS Ecosystems Mission area as it directly relates to four of their five science strategies.

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: Wetland areas are highly dynamic, and variability in remotely-sensed land area estimates can often be attributed to temporary wind and water level fluctuations present at the date and time of acquisition of the imagery. As such, an analysis of land loss change cannot simply be based on changes between a pre- and post- set of imagery. Conversely, this research proposes to analyze land loss change from every cloud-free date of imagery throughout the entire Landsat period on record (1984-2014). This multi-temporal analysis enables the removal of transient phenomena such as temporary flooding and thereby facilitates the isolation of specific events. This effort will, for the first time ever, provide a high temporal resolution analysis of land loss change rates throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico, a type of investigation that has only been conducted in coastal Louisiana thus far.

Future Steps: In future years of this project, wetland change will be further dissected into the type of habitat change which occurred.

Location of the Study: The study area will consist of the coastal zone (defined by the federal water boundary and a 10-m topographic contour) of the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to the border of the Atlantic Coast in Florida.