Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 45-56

First online:

Influence of hurricanes on coastal ecosystems along the northern Gulf of Mexico

  • William H. ConnerAffiliated withCoastal Ecology Institute, Center for Wetland Resources, Louisiana State University
  • , John W. DayJr.Affiliated withCoastal Ecology Institute, Center for Wetland Resources, Louisiana State University
  • , Robert H. BaumannAffiliated withCenter for Energy Studies, Louisiana State University
  • , John M. RandallAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, University of California

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Available literature indicates that hurricanes do not generally produce long-term detrimental impacts to unmodified coastal systems and that they often provide net benefits along the U.S. Gulf Coast. While there is normally initial erosion from hurricanes, they also often result in a large influx of inorganic sediments, creating new wetlands and contributing to the maintenance of existing wetlands. The formation of washover deposits is disastrous where cultural development has occurred, but in natural areas these deposits are part of the natural cycle of shoreline development and contribute to habitat diversity and productivity. Abundant rainfall typically associated with hurricanes often results in large increases of sediment and nutrient inputs into coastal estuaries, leading to both short-term and long-term increases in productivity. Rainfall during tropical disturbances accounts for a significant part of total precipitation along the northern gulf. The immediate impact of hurricanes may be to reduce populations of some species but these populations generally recover rapidly. Overall, productivity in natural systems seems to be increased by periodic hurricanes. Hurricane impacts are often severe and long lasting in wetlands that have been modified by human impacts such as semi- or complete impoundments.


erosion fisheries flooding geology Gulf coast hurricanes productivity stress sedimentation