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Channel modification and evolution alter hydraulic connectivity in the Atchafalaya River basin increasing vulnerability to sea-level rise

July 1, 2019

Channel dredging and erosion in the Atchafalaya River basin have resulted in changes to the hydraulic connectivity of this floodplain swamp that have not been previously quantified. In this study, analyses were conducted to determine hydraulic and geomorphic factors that have changed since channel closure in 1962. Results indicated changes occurred in the Atchafalaya main channel cross-section between 1962 and 2010, and hydraulic and geomorphic changes were detected in portions of the interior eastern basin floodplain. Analyses of hydrographs in relation to floodplain elevations indicated that there was a lack of mineral sediment deposition sufficient to offset subsidence and rising sea level. This deficit has resulted in extended hydroperiods over the floodplain which could prevent tree regeneration and promote hypoxia.