Model Improvements for Louisiana’s 2023 Coastal Master Plan

Science Center Objects

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Coastal Master Plan is a blueprint for responding to environmental changes. As part of the agency’s continued engagement, USGS supports model developments and improvements for the 2023 Coastal Master Plan.

The Science Issue and Relevance: Coastal Louisiana is home to more than 2 million people and provides critical habitat to a multitude of ecologically, recreationally, and commercially important fish and wildlife species. Ongoing natural and anthropogenic impacts to the coast are increasing flood risk in coastal communities and threatening the loss of these vital habitats. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Coastal Master Plan is a blueprint for responding to these unprecedent environmental changes. By using a collaborative, science-based, decision-making process involving local, state, regional, and federal partners, the Coastal Master Plan approach considers climate change, ecosystem dynamics, and community resilience to prioritize and sequence restoration and protection projects for implementation. A suite of individual modeling tools was first developed for the 2012 Coastal Master Plan and integrated and improved for the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. As part of the agency’s continued engagement on the Coastal Master Plan process, USGS will support model developments and improvements for the 2023 Coastal Master Plan. These improvements include: (1) improving the integration of models and model components, (2) incorporating newly available data, and (3) applying new approaches to better capture modeled processes.

Habitat transition

Cross section rendering of coastal habitats in transition in Louisiana, USA (Artist credit: Lasharky)

(Public domain.)

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: USGS will collaborate with state agencies and non-governmental partners on four model improvement teams: Model Inputs Team; Integration and Coding Team; Wetlands, Soil and Vegetation Team; and Habitat Suitability Index Model Team. Team members will work together to improve models of wetlands, soil, vegetation, fisheries, and wildlife. These activities include (1) assessing modeling approaches for constructing habitat suitability indices, (2) identifying marsh collapse thresholds and organic matter accretion rates, (3) improving floating marsh and forested wetland ecosystem processes, and (4) where necessary, proposing alternative modeling approaches to improve predictions of ecosystem response to different environmental scenarios. We will then identify and incorporate new or improved information and create model input datasets for the integrated compartment model.

 

Future Steps: The model improvements will allow for more accurate predictions of future ecosystem changes and provide a mechanism for Louisiana’s decision makers to prioritize and sequence restoration and projection projects using best available science. The modeling tools will be used to predict project outcomes and compare modeled results under different environmental scenarios to identify the best suites of projects that achieve the state’s goals.