Environmental Geology and Water Sciences

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 183–193 | Cite as

The role of the Mississippi River in wetland loss in southeastern Louisiana, U.S.A.

  • Richard H. Kesel


The suspended load of the Lower Mississippi River has decreased almost 80 percent since 1850. The long-term suspended sediment record can be loosely subdivided into three phases: a historic interval prior to 1900, a predam period (1930–1952) and a postdam period (1963–1982). The suspended load decreased 43 percent from the historic to the predam period and 51 percent from the predam to the postdam period. The decreases in suspended load after 1952 coincide with the construction of reservoirs and dams on the Missouri and Arkansas rivers. Earlier decreases may be the result of changes in land use measurement practices. The decrease in suspended load and the elimination of overbank flow by the construction of artificial levees are considered to be major causes of coastal wetland loss in southeastern Louisiana. During the historic period sediment accumulation of the marsh surface was greater than the rate of water level rise. During the pre and postdam periods, the rate of water level rise exceeded sediment accretion on the marsh surface. Although the elimination of overbank sediment clearly exacerbated the wetlands loss, an accelerated rate of water level rise during the past 25 years has been a dominant factor. Based on estimates of available overbank sediment, it is suggested that the most viable management strategy for the wetlands would be the diversion of sediment into selected areas where the land loss is most critical.


Suspended Sediment Coastal Wetland Sediment Accumulation Sediment Record Marsh Surface 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard H. Kesel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography and AnthropologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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