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Historical and projected coastal Louisiana land changes: 1978-2050

December 31, 1993

An important component of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Coastwide Ecosystem Restoration Study is the projection of a “future condition” for the Louisiana coast if no further restoration measures were adopted. Such a projection gives an idea of what the future might hold without implementation of the LCA plan and provides a reference against which various ecosystem restoration proposals can be assessed as part of the planning process. One of the most fundamental measures of ecosystem degradation in coastal Louisiana has been the conversion of land (mostly emergent vegetated habitat) to open water. Thus, the projection of the future condition of the ecosystem must be based upon the determination of future patterns of land and water.

To conduct these projections, a multidisciplinary LCA Land Change Study Group was formed that included individuals from agencies and academia with expertise in remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), ecosystem processes, and coastal land loss. Methods were based upon those used in prior studies for Coast 2050 (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force [LCWCRTF] and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority 1998, 1999) and modified as described here to incorporate an improved understanding of coastal land loss and land gain processes with more advanced technical capabilities. The basic approach is to use historical data to assess recent trends in land loss and land gain and to project those changes into the future, taking into account spatial variations in the patterns and rates of land loss and land gain. This approach is accomplished by developing a base map, assessing and delineating areas of similar land change (polygons), and projecting changes into the future. This report describes the methodology and compares the current land change projection to previous projections.