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Disturbance and recovery of the Louisiana coastal marsh landscape from the impacts of Hurricane Andrew

December 31, 1995

The impact of Hurricane Andrew on the Louisiana coastal landscape and the initial recovery of wetland plant communities was determined from extensive surveys of a large geographic region of coastal marsh near Atchafalaya Bay and intensive studies of an oligohaline marsh on Otter Bayou. Wind and water movements associated with the hurricane resulted in the formation of compressed marsh, thick sediment deposits, wrack deposition, areas of salt burning, and scour. No sites were entirely without some impact. Sediments were deposited over large areas of coastal marsh. Marsh sites near Atchafalaya Bay had the thickest post-storm accumulations documented, up to 16 cm on average, while inland marsh sites accumulated lesser amounts of sediments. The nature of the sediment deposited on the marsh surface varied with location relative to the path of the storm and sources of sediment. Lateral compression resulted in surface relief 5-10 times greater than normal surface relief. Plant cover quickly recovered in all hurricane impact types except for scour areas and areas of thick wrack accumulation. Shifts in species dominance occurred in laterally compressed areas and are related to increased elevations. These findings suggest that hurricanes result in a variety of impacts in coastal Louisiana marshes and that the heterogeneity of the coastal landscape contributes to the magnitude and distribution of these impacts.

Publication Year 1995
Title Disturbance and recovery of the Louisiana coastal marsh landscape from the impacts of Hurricane Andrew
Authors Glenn R. Guntenspergen, Donald R. Cahoon, James B. Grace, Gregory D. Steyer, Stephen Fournet, M. A. Townson, A. Lee Foote
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Research
Index ID 70207776
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center; Wetland and Aquatic Research Center