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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
All data generated and analyzed and all R code needed to replicate these results are available in the supplementary material.
Despite the use of the term “retreat” in much of the literature on climate change adaptation (Titus et al. 2009), many coastal communities do not use the term “retreat” to describe their plans to relocate. Retreat signifies a reactive effort that ignores the complex social and cultural toll of relocating, whereas the terms “relocation” or “resettlement” are more empowering and proactive, especially when community led (Center 2015); these latter terms acknowledge both “ends” of the process involved with leaving one place and moving to another.
For 1940 to 1990, data can be found at http://www.census.gov/prod/cen1990/cph2/cph-2-1-1.pdf. Census 2000 data can be downloaded through American FactFinder.
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.
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.
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.
Berrang-Ford, L., Ford, James D., Paterson, J. (2011). Are we adapting to climate change Global Environmental Change, 21(1), 25–33.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Center, L. (2015). Resettlement as a resilience strategy: and the case of Isle de Jean Charles. Gray, LA. https://www.doa.la.gov/OCDDRU/NDRC/IDJC_Prospectus_final_27Oct15_updated_logos.pdf.
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.
Connell, J. (1990). The Carteret Islands: precedents of the greenhouse effect. Geography, 75(2), 152–54. JSTOR.
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.
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.
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.
Couvillion, B.R., Beck, H., Schoolmaster, D., Fischer, M. (2017). Land area change in coastal Louisiana (1932 to 2016). Reston, VA. https://doi.org/10.3133/sim3381.
Craig, N.J., Turner, R.E., Day, J.W. (1979). Land loss in coastal Louisiana (USA). Environmental Management, 3(2), 133–44. Springer.
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.
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.
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.
Dehring, C.A. (2006). Building codes and land values in high hazard areas. Land Economics, 82(4), 513–28. University of Wisconsin Press.
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.
Döös, Bo R. (1997). Can large-scale environmental migrations be predicted?. Global Environmental Change, 7(1), 41–61. Elsevier.
Findlay, A.M. (2011). Migrant destinations in an era of environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 21, S50—S58. Elsevier.
Fox, D. (2007). Back to the no-analog future?. Science, 316(5826), 823–25. American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Gagliano, S.M., Meyer-Arendt, K.J., Wicker, K.M. (1981), Land loss in the Mississippi river deltaic plain. GCAGS Transactions.
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.
Gornitz, V. (2013). Rising seas: Past, present, Future. Columbia: Columbia University Press.
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.
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.
Hardy, R.D., & Hauer, M.E. (2018). Social vulnerability projections improve sea-level rise risk assessments. Applied Geography, 91(2), 10–20. Elsevier.
Hauer, M.E. (2017). Migration induced by sea-level rise could reshape the US population landscape. Nature Climate Change, 7, 321–25.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kahn, M.E. (2014). Climate change adaptation: lessons from urban economics. National Bureau of Economic Research.
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.
Lutsey, N, & Sperling, D. (2008). America’s bottom-up climate change mitigation policy. Energy Policy, 36, 673–85.
Lutz, W., Goujon, A., Smir, K., Sanderson, W. (2007). Vienna yearbook of population research. Vienna: Vienna Institute of Demography.
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.
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.
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.
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.
McLeman, R.A. (2011). Settlement abandonment in the context of global environmental change. Elsevier, 21, S108—S120.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Smith, S.K., Tayman, J., Swanson, D.A. (2006). State and local population projections: methodology and analysis. Springer Science & Business Media.
Steel, T. (2011). The life and death of St. Kilda: the moving story of a vanished island community. HarperCollins UK.
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.
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.
Thiede, B.C., & Brown, D.L. (2013). Hurricane Katrina: who stayed and why?. Population Research and Policy Review, 32(6), 803–24. Springer Netherlands.
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.
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.
Wong, D.W.S. (1992). The reliability of using the iterative proportional fitting procedure. The Professional Geographer, 44(3), 340–48. Wiley Online Library.
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.
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.
Zhang, K., Douglas, B.C, Leatherman, S.P. (2004). Global warming and coastal erosion. Climatic Change, 64(1), 41–58. Springer.
Support for RDH was provided by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation (Award #DBI-1639145).
All experiments complied with ethical standards in the USA.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
The data and code that supports this analysis are available in the supplementary materials.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Hauer, M.E., Hardy, R.D., Mishra, D.R. et al. No landward movement: examining 80 years of population migration and shoreline change in Louisiana. Popul Environ 40, 369–387 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-019-00315-8