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Drs. Amer and Potter publish 30 years of change in Breton Sound Basin, Southeastern Louisiana

Drs. Reda Amer, assistant professor of geology and Director of Lamar University’s Geospatial Center and Christopher Potter, a senior research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, recently published research that documents changes in coastal land area and vegetation green. The paper, “Mapping 30 Years of Change in the Marshlands of Breton Sound Basin, southeastern Louisiana” is a culmination of more than three years of meticulous research that analyzes records of land loss/gain in the coastal wetlands of southeastern Louisiana during a span of 30 years was published in the “Journal of Coastal Research” online.

“Over the past century, one-quarter (nearly 5,000 square kilometers) of the land area in the coastal Louisiana region has been lost to open water,” said Amer. “The work of this research is to inform restoration planning to restore and protect the remaining wetlands in the Breton Sound Basin.”

Utilizing data from the NASA/USGS Landsat satellite archive to reconstruct land and water cover changes, Amer and Potter have been able to observe the impact of major human activities, including the completion of flood-controlled levees along the Mississippi River in the 1920s, construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet in 1963 and smaller canals for oil extraction from the 1950s through 1980s. “The immediate impact of these alterations is increased marine influence, including a landward shift in salinity,” said Dr. Amer.

Most notably, time series analysis of Landsat imagery showed 245 square kilometers of wetland in the Breton Sound Basin were lost to open water from the impacts of hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, along with indications that gains in marshland and green vegetation cover have occurred at a annual rate of increase since 2008. “It provides a comprehensive understanding on how land cover change and vegetation can be monitored and measured using existing satellite sensors,” said Amer.

During  the past 100 years, coastal states lost tens of thousands of square miles of land; the residential and infrastructure assets of these coastal states could be at risk. “Coastal restoration is required to reduce the risks of coastal land loss and protect our coastal ecosystem,” said Amer.

For more information, contact Dr. Reda Amer at ramer2@lamar.edu or Dr. Christopher Potter at chris.potter@nasa.gov.