Population and Environment

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 369–387 | Cite as

No landward movement: examining 80 years of population migration and shoreline change in Louisiana

  • Mathew E. HauerEmail author
  • R. Dean Hardy
  • Deepak R. Mishra
  • J. Scott Pippin
Original Paper


Louisiana lost nearly 5,000 km2 of its coastal land area due to relative sea level rise (including local, regional, and global factors driving relative sea level change) since 1932, mirroring both the hazards associated with sea level rise and the time horizons of sea level rise impacts expected this century. This represents an opportunity to examine the relationship between long-term population changes and shoreline change. Based on detailed land change data for the period 1932–2010 and a small area population estimation technique for the period 1940–2010, we examine intra-parish population changes in relation to shoreline changes for the one million plus residents living in the ten coastal parishes of Louisiana. We find that since 1940, only two of the ten coastal parishes exhibited landward population movement, which we define as movement perpendicular to the shoreline, exceeding 1 km. Three parishes exhibited seaward population movement in excess of 1 km. Overall, we find very little net intra-parish landward population movement for the region. Our findings suggest that coastal Louisiana’s historical population has not moved in concert with observed shoreline encroachment. We also find a potential tipping point related to population migration when a neighborhood loses at least 50% of its land area. Our findings suggest that this lack of landward population movement could be attributable to either localized adaptation strategies or migrations to other landward areas.


Louisiana Hurricane Katrina Sea level rise Adaptation Migration Coastal populations Landward migration 



Support for RDH was provided by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation (Award #DBI-1639145).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All experiments complied with ethical standards in the USA.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11111_2019_315_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (202 kb)
(PDF 202 KB)


  1. Bardsley, D.K., & Hugo, G.J. (2010). Migration and climate change: Examining thresholds of change to guide effective adaptation decision-making. Population and Environment, 32(2-3), 238–62. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barras, J., Beville, S., Britsch, D., Hartley, S., Hawes, S., Johnston, J., Kemp, P., et al. (2003). Historical and projected coastal louisiana land changes: 1978-2050. United States Geological Survey.Google Scholar
  3. Beckman, R.J., Baggerly, K.A., McKay, M.D. (1996). Creating synthetic baseline populations. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 30 (6), Elsevier, pp 415–29.Google Scholar
  4. Berrang-Ford, L., Ford, James D., Paterson, J. (2011). Are we adapting to climate change Global Environmental Change, 21(1), 25–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black, R., Adger, N., Arnell, N., Dercon, S., Geddes, A., Thomas, D. (2011a). The effect of environmental change on human migration. Global Environmental Change 21, Elsevier, pp S3—S11.Google Scholar
  6. Black, R., Bennett, S.R.G., Thomas, S.M., Beddington, J.R. (2011b). Climate change: Migration as adaptation. Nature, 478(7370), 447–49. Nature Research.Google Scholar
  7. Boesch, D.F. (2006). Scientific requirements for ecosystem-based management in the restoration of chesapeake bay and coastal louisiana. Ecological Engineering, 26 (1), 6–26. Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boesch, D.F., Josselyn, M.N., Mehta, A.J., Morris, J.T., Nuttle, W.K., Simenstad, C.A., Swift, D.J.P. (1994). Scientific assessment of coastal wetland loss, restoration and management in Louisiana. Journal of Coastal Research. JSTOR, i–103.Google Scholar
  9. Burley, D., Jenkins, P., Laska, S., Davis, T. (2007). Place attachment and environmental change in coastal Louisiana. Organization & Environment 20 (3). Sage Publications Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA, pp. 347–66.Google Scholar
  10. Center, L. (2015). Resettlement as a resilience strategy: and the case of Isle de Jean Charles. Gray, LA.
  11. Choupani, A.-A., & Mamdoohi, A.R. (2016). Population synthesis using iterative proportional fitting (IPF): a review and future research. Transportation Research Procedia 17. Elsevier: 223–33.Google Scholar
  12. Connell, J. (1990). The Carteret Islands: precedents of the greenhouse effect. Geography, 75(2), 152–54. JSTOR.Google Scholar
  13. Connell, J. (2016). Last days in the carteret islands? climate change, livelihoods and migration on coral atolls. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 57(1), 3–15. Wiley Online Library.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bailey, C., Gramling, R., Laska, S.B. (2014). Complexities of resilience: adaptation and change within human communities of coastal Louisiana. In: Perspectives on the restoration of the Mississippi Delta, pp. 125–40. Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Couvillion, B.R., Barras, J.A., Steyer, G.D., Sleavin, W., Fischer, M., Beck, H., Trahan, N., Griffin, B., Heckman, D. (2011). Land area change in coastal Louisiana from 1932 to 2010. US Geological Survey.Google Scholar
  16. Couvillion, B.R., Beck, H., Schoolmaster, D., Fischer, M. (2017). Land area change in coastal Louisiana (1932 to 2016). Reston, VA.
  17. Craig, N.J., Turner, R.E., Day, J.W. (1979). Land loss in coastal Louisiana (USA). Environmental Management, 3(2), 133–44. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cromley, R.G., Ebenstein, A.Y., Hanink, D.M. (2009). Estimating components of population change from census data for incongruent spatial/temporal units and attributes. Journal of Spatial Science, 54(2), 89–99. Taylor & Francis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Curtis, K.J., Fussell, E., DeWaard, J. (2015). Recovery migration after hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Spatial concentration and intensification in the migration system. Demography, 52(4), 1269–93. Springer US.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Curtis, K., & Schneider, A. (2011). Understanding the demographic implications of climate change: Estimates of localized population predictions under future scenarios of sea-level rise. Population and Environment, 33, 28–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dehring, C.A. (2006). Building codes and land values in high hazard areas. Land Economics, 82(4), 513–28. University of Wisconsin Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Deming, W.E., & Stephan, F.F. (1940). On a least squares adjustment of a sampled frequency table when the expected marginal totals are known. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 11(4), 427–44. JSTOR.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Döös, Bo R. (1997). Can large-scale environmental migrations be predicted?. Global Environmental Change, 7(1), 41–61. Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Findlay, A.M. (2011). Migrant destinations in an era of environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 21, S50—S58. Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fox, D. (2007). Back to the no-analog future?. Science, 316(5826), 823–25. American Association for the Advancement of Science.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gagliano, S.M., Meyer-Arendt, K.J., Wicker, K.M. (1981), Land loss in the Mississippi river deltaic plain. GCAGS Transactions.Google Scholar
  27. Gibbons, S.J.A., & Nicholls, R.J. (2006). Island abandonment and sea-level rise: an historical analog from the chesapeake bay, Usa. Global Environmental Change, 16 (1), 40–47. Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gornitz, V. (2013). Rising seas: Past, present, Future. Columbia: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Gutmann, M.P., & Field, V. (2010). Katrina in historical context: Environment and migration in the US. Population and Environment, 31(1-3), 3–19. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hammer, R.B., Stewart, S.I., Winkler, R.L., Radeloff, V.C., Voss, P.R. (2004). Characterizing dynamic spatial and temporal residential density patterns from 1940–1990 across the north central United States. Landscape and Urban Planning, 69 (2), 183–99. Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hardy, R.D., & Hauer, M.E. (2018). Social vulnerability projections improve sea-level rise risk assessments. Applied Geography, 91(2), 10–20. Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hauer, M.E. (2017). Migration induced by sea-level rise could reshape the US population landscape. Nature Climate Change, 7, 321–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hauer, M.E., Evans, J.M., Alexander, C.R. (2015). Sea-level rise and sub-county population projections in coastal Georgia. Population and Environment, 37(1), 44–62. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hauer, M.E., Evans, J.M., Mishra, D.R. (2016). Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States. Nature Climate Change, 6 (7), 691–95. Nature Research.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hino, M., Field, C.B., Mach, K.J. (2017). Managed retreat as a response to natural hazard risk. Nature Climate Change, 7(5), 364–70. Nature Research.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hori, M., Schafer, M.J., Bowman, D.J. (2009). Displacement dynamics in southern Louisiana after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Population Research and Policy Review, 28(1), 45–65. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Huntington, H.P., Goodstein, E., Euskirchen, E. (2012). Towards a tipping point in responding to change: Rising costs, fewer options for arctic and global societies. Ambio, 41(1), 66–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. IPCC. (2014). Climate change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part a: global and sectoral aspects. contribution of working group II to the 5th assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. In Field, C.B., Barros, V.R., Dokken, D.J., Mach, K.J., Mastrandrea, M.D., Bilir, T.E., Chatterjee, M., Ebi, K.L., Estrada, Y.O., Genova, R.C., Girma, B., Kissel, E.S., Levy, A.N., MacCracken, S., Mastrandrea, P.R., White, L.L. (Eds.) Book. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Kahn, M.E. (2014). Climate change adaptation: lessons from urban economics. National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  40. King, M. (2017). A tribe faces rising tides: the resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles. LSU. Journal of Energy Law and Resources, 6(1), 295–317. LSU.Google Scholar
  41. Lutsey, N, & Sperling, D. (2008). America’s bottom-up climate change mitigation policy. Energy Policy, 36, 673–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lutz, W., Goujon, A., Smir, K., Sanderson, W. (2007). Vienna yearbook of population research. Vienna: Vienna Institute of Demography.Google Scholar
  43. Maldonado, J.K. (2015). Everyday practices and symbolic forms of resistance: Adapting to environmental change in coastal Louisiana. Hazards, risks and disasters in Society. Elsevier, 424p Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  44. Maldonado, J.K., Shearer, C., Bronen, R., Peterson, K., Lazrus, H. (2013). The impact of climate change on tribal communities in the US: displacement, relocation, and human rights. Climatic Change, 120(3), 601–14. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Marcos, M., Marzeion, B., Dangendorf, S., Slangen, A.B.A., Palanisamy, H., Fenoglio-Marc, L. (2017). Internal variability versus anthropogenic forcing on sea level and its components. Surveys in Geophysics, 38(1), 329–48. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Martinich, J., Neumann, J., Ludwig, L., Jantarasami, L. (2013). Risks of sea level rise to disadvantaged communities in the United States. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 18(2), 169–85. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McLeman, R.A. (2011). Settlement abandonment in the context of global environmental change. Elsevier, 21, S108—S120.Google Scholar
  48. Mitrovica, J.X., Gomez, N., Clark, P.U. (2009). The sea-level fingerprint of west Antarctic collapse. Science, 323(5915), 753. American Association for the Advancement of Science.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Neumann, B., Vafeidis, A.T., Zimmermann, J., Nicholls, R.J. (2015). Future coastal population growth and exposure to sea-level rise and coastal flooding-a global assessment. PloS One, 10(3), e0118571. Public Library of Science.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nicholls, R.J., Marinova, N., Lowe, J.A., Brown, S., Vellinga, P., De Gusmao, D., Hinkel, J., Tol, R.S.J. (2011). Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘Beyond 4 c World’ in the 21st century. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 369(1934), 161–81. The Royal Society.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Olea, R.A., & Coleman Jr, J.L. (2013). A synoptic examination of causes of land loss in southern louisiana as related to the exploitation of subsurface geologic resources. Journal of Coastal Research, 30(5), 1025–44. Coastal Education & Research Foundation.Google Scholar
  52. Peltier, W.R. (2004). Global glacial isostasy and the surface of the ice-age earth: The Ice-5G (Vm2) model and grace. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 32, 111–49. Annual Reviews.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Plyer, A., Bonaguro, J., Hodges, K. (2010). Using administrative data to estimate population displacement and resettlement following a catastrophic US disaster. Population and Environment, 31, 150–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rose, A.N., & Nagle, N.N. (2017). Validation of spatiodemographic estimates produced through data fusion of small area census records and household microdata. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 63, 38–49. Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rowley, R.J., Kostelnick, J.C., Braaten, D., Li, X., Meisel, J. (2007). Risk of rising sea level to population and land area. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 88, 105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sastry, N. (2009). Displaced new orleans residents in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina: results from a pilot survey. Organization & Environment 22 (4). Sage Publications Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA, pp. 395–409.Google Scholar
  57. Simms, J.R.Z. (2016). Why would I live anyplace else?’: resilience, sense of place, and possibilities of migration in coastal Louisiana. Journal of Coastal Research 33 (2). The Coastal Education; Research Foundation: 408–20.Google Scholar
  58. Smit, B., & Skinner, M.W. (2002). Adaptation options in agriculture to climate change: a typology. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 7(1), 85–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Smith, S.K., Tayman, J., Swanson, D.A. (2006). State and local population projections: methodology and analysis. Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  60. Steel, T. (2011). The life and death of St. Kilda: the moving story of a vanished island community. HarperCollins UK.Google Scholar
  61. Strauss, B.H., Kulp, S., Levermann, A. (2015). Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(44), 13508–13. National Acad Sciences.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Swanson, D.A., Schlottmann, A., Schmidt, B. (2010). Forecasting the population of census tracts by age and sex: an example of the Hamilton–Perry method in action. Population Research and Policy Review, 29(1), 47–63. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thiede, B.C., & Brown, D.L. (2013). Hurricane Katrina: who stayed and why?. Population Research and Policy Review, 32(6), 803–24. Springer Netherlands.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Thomas, K., Dean Hardy, R., Lazrus, H., Mendez, M., Orlove, B., Rivera-Collazo, I., Timmons Roberts, J., Rockman, Marcy, Warner, B.P., Winthrop, R. (2018). Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: a social science review. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Wiley Online Library, e565.Google Scholar
  65. Titus, J.G., Hudgens, D.E., Trescott, D.L., Craghan, M., Nuckols, W.H., et al. (2009). State and local government plant for development of most land vulnerable to rising sea level along the US atlantic coast, Environmental Research Letters, 4.Google Scholar
  66. Wong, D.W.S. (1992). The reliability of using the iterative proportional fitting procedure. The Professional Geographer, 44(3), 340–48. Wiley Online Library.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wu, S.-Y., Yarnal, B., Fisher, A. (2002). Vulernability of coastal communities to sea=level rise: a case study of Cape May County, New Jersey, USA. Climate Research, 22, 255–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Yusuf, J.-E., Neill, K., Burton, S.J.III, Ash, I.K., Mahar, K. (2016). The sea is rising… but not onto the policy agenda: a multiple streams approach to understanding sea level rise policies. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 34 (2). SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England, 228–43.Google Scholar
  69. Zhang, K., Douglas, B.C, Leatherman, S.P. (2004). Global warming and coastal erosion. Climatic Change, 64(1), 41–58. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.University of Maryland College ParkCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations