S.O.S. Save Our Swamps: NASA Earth Observations Aid Wetland Reforestation

Project Team: Louisiana Ecological Forecasting Team
Team Location: NASA Stennis Space Center, Stennis, Mississippi

(Left) Land-cover classification of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes in coastal Louisiana derived from April 9, 2014, and Dec. 18, 2013, Landsat 8 OLI images. (Right) Landsat 8 natural-color image from April 9, 2014. Image Credit: Louisiana Ecological Forecasting Team.

(Left) Land-cover classification of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes in coastal Louisiana derived from April 9, 2014, and Dec. 18, 2013, Landsat 8 OLI images. (Right) Landsat 8 natural-color image from April 9, 2014. Image Credit: Louisiana Ecological Forecasting Team.

Authors:
Shelby Barrett, Project Lead (William Carey University)
Brittany Howell (University of Southern Mississippi)
Ben Beasley (University of New Orleans)
Alahna Moore (University of New Orleans)

Mentors/Advisors:
Joe Spruce (NASA Stennis Space Center)
James “Doc” Smoot (NASA Stennis Space Center)

Past/Other Contributors:
DEVELOP Summer 2012 Louisiana Ecological Forecasting Team: Ross Reahard, Emma Strong, Mike Ewing, Maria Arguelles, Chelsea Kelly

Abstract:
Louisiana’s wetlands, including coastal forests and barrier islands, are the state’s first defense system against severe weather events, effectively buffering impacts from seasonal flooding, tropical storms, and hurricanes. These events, along with anthropogenic and natural modifications to coastal Louisiana’s hydrology, greatly contribute to wetland habitat degradation and loss. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Louisiana alone accounts for 90 percent of the total U.S. coastal wetland loss from 1932 to 2010. Continued degradation of coastal Louisiana forests and wetlands causes Louisiana to lose natural protective barriers, endangering communities, and destroying essential wildlife habitats. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Hurricane Gustav in 2008, and Hurricane Isaac in 2012 were detrimental to many coastal ecosystems that provide natural storm protection to citizens inhabiting coastal Louisiana. These invaluable coastal ecosystems require restoration in order to maintain storm protection for coastal communities and to mitigate coastal habitat degradation and loss.

This term’s project produced planting suitability maps for several coastal Louisiana parishes and communities for a number of wetland tree species including sand live oak (Quercus geminate), water oak (Quercus nigra), black willow (Salix nigra), red maple (Acer rubrum), water tupelo (Nyssa aquatic), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and hackberry (Celtis laevigata). These suitability maps enabled end users to determine where to focus planting efforts based on individual species’ suitability to a particular area.

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