Bird’s Foot Delta: An Evolving Landscape

Left:  Multi-date Landsat change detection map within the bird’s foot delta.   Right:  Random points placed on high resolution aerial photography from 2004 (top) and 2010 (bottom) to assess the accuracy of the Landsat change detection map.

Left: Multi-date Landsat change detection map within the bird’s foot delta. Right: Random points placed on high resolution aerial photography from 2004 (top) and 2010 (bottom) to assess the accuracy of the Landsat change detection map.

Team Location: John C. Stennis Space Center

Authors: Candis Mallett, Travis Brannen, Cody Dockens, Jason Jones

Science Advisors/Mentors: Joe Spruce, Dr. Kenton Ross, Cheri miller, Brandie Mitchell

Abstract: The modern Mississippi River delta lobe complex, located in Southeast Louisiana, consists of several smaller sub-deltas and is a highly dynamic environment. This area has experienced substantial wetland loss in the past 200 years due to hurricanes, land subsidence, and lack of fresh water and sediment input from the Mississippi River (CWWPRA, 1997). The main process that builds land in the lower Mississippi River Delta is the formation of sub-deltas. These “scaled down” versions of major deltas follow the same deltaic cycle, in terms of both geological process and time, as their larger counterparts (Wells and Coleman, 1987). Short-term evolution of modern Mississippi River sub-deltas is important to understand as an analog for the planning of future river diversion and wetland restoration projects. It is also important to understand how the sub-deltas rebuild land and repair themselves after being impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources are working to mitigate land loss and to improve the overall health of the delta through the strategic placement of sediment and fresh water diversions as well as various types of marsh restoration projects. This study used data collected by the Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper in conjunction with aerial imagery, ASTER digital elevation models, and land cover data to create a more synoptic record of the Mississippi River delta’s response to tropical cyclones and geological evolution from 1985-2011. Providing partner agencies with a better understanding of the evolutionary process of the modern Mississippi River delta lobe complex through remotely sensed data will aid them with the planning and placement of future diversions and coastal restoration projects.

Video transcript available here.

References:
Wells, J. T., and J. M. Coleman 1987. Wetland Loss and the Subdelta Life Cycle. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 25: 111-125.

Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act Program (CWPPRA). 1997 Report to Congress: Wetland Loss in Louisiana. http://www.lacoast.gov/reports/rtc/1997/5.htm. Retrieved February 27, 2012.