American Society of Civil Engineers


Impacts of Rising Sea Level to Backbarrier Wetlands, Tidal Inlets, and Barrier Islands: Barataria Coast, Louisiana


by Duncan FitzGerald, (Department of Earth Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215 E-mail: dunc@bu.edu), Mark Kulp, (Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148 E-mail: mkulp@uno.edu), Zoe Hughes, (Department of Earth Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215 E-mail: zoeh@bu.edu), Ioannis Georgiou, (Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148 E-mail: igeorgiou@uno.edu), Michael Miner, (Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148 E-mail: michaeldminer@gmail.com), Shea Penland, (Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148 E-mail: spenland@uno.edu), and Nick Howes, (Department of Earth Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215 E-mail: nchowes@gmail.com)

pp. 1179-1192, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/40926(239)91)

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Coastal Sediments ’07
Abstract: The Barataria barrier system within the Mississippi River delta plain, is experiencing some of the highest relative sea-level rise (SLR) rates in the continental USA (0.94 cm/yr). This has led to substantial wetland loss in Barataria Bay (16.9 km2yr, from 1935–2000). This conversion of wetlands to intertidal and subtidal environments results from several linked processes including subsidence, marsh front erosion, and catastrophic scour during large magnitude hurricanes. Increasing open water within Barataria Bay has amplified tidal exchange with the ocean. Between 1880 and 2006, an increase of 400% took place in the combined cross-sectional areas of the major tidal inlets of Barataria Bay, associated with the enlarging tidal prism. This expansion of the inlets has been at the expense of the adjacent barrier islands, evident in the concomitant progradation of the ebb-tidal deltas. Since the 1880’s the ebb delta at Barataria Pass built seaward more than 2.0 km, sediment cores show that sand constitutes the upper 1–2 m of the ebb delta. Movement of sand offshore, regional subsidence and increasing bay tidal prism produce segmentation of the barriers, forming new inlets such as Pass Abel. Acceleration in eustatic sea level rise will lead to further wetland loss and thus ultimately barrier disintegration. The Barataria barrier chain will be transformed into an island-only system similar to the Isle Dernieres and Timbaliers.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Sea level
Wetlands
Tidal currents
Barrier islands
Louisiana