Self-maintaining deltas could be solution to coastal erosion

New research led by a Louisiana scientist contradicts the common belief that there is insufficient sediment in the Mississippi River to rebuild part of the coastal landscape. In fact, this landscape is self-sustaining if the river sediment is properly managed, even under conditions of subsidence and sea level rise. Dr. Robert Twilley, Professor of Oceanography and Coastal Science for Louisiana State University, and his team presented the findings at a recent conference in Boston...

BOSTON, MA, Feb. 19, 2008 -- New research led by a Louisiana scientist contradicts the common belief that there is insufficient sediment in the Mississippi River to rebuild part of the coastal landscape. In fact, this landscape is self-sustaining if the river sediment is properly managed, even under conditions of subsidence and sea level rise.

Dr. Robert Twilley, Professor of Oceanography and Coastal Science for Louisiana State University, and his team presented the findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Boston.

Twilley, who also serves as the co-chair of the America's Energy Coast Policy Advisory Council, highlighted that bold decisions in managing present sediment of the Mississippi River will be required, in contrast to present conditions that force sediment out into the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We cannot rebuild all the wetlands that we have lost, but there are sufficient resources of the river to make a significant contribution to a sustainable coastal landscape. Every time the natural sediment of the Mississippi River is channeled to the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana's coastal habitat losses another opportunity for a stable coast for work and play," Twilley said.

In his presentation entitled "Designing Self-Maintaining Deltas: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Restoration," Twilley spoke of the role sediment plays in the development of wetlands.

Twilley was joined by other scientists, who also reported on this topic, including:
• Chris Paola, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., Symposium organizer
• David Mohrig, University of Texas, Austin, Reverse Engineering the Deltaic Stratigraphic Record
• Gary Parker, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Morphodynamics of Delta Restoration

"The recent findings of Dr. Twilley and his colleagues compound the years of research and scientific evidence that offer a viable solution to the complex problem of coastal land loss," said R. King Milling, chair of the America's WETLAND board of directors.

The America's WETLAND Campaign -- one of the largest, most comprehensive public education efforts in Louisiana's history -- was launched to raise public awareness of the impact of Louisiana's wetland loss on the region, nation, and world.

###

More in Environmental