Influence of the Wax Lake Delta sediment diversion on aboveground plant productivity and carbon storage in deltaic island and mainland coastal marshes

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Coastal Louisiana is experiencing a significant loss of coastal wetland area due to increasing sea level rise, subsidence, sediment starvation and marsh collapse. The construction of large scale Mississippi River sediment diversions is currently being planned in an effort to help combat coastal wetlands losses at a rate of >50 km y . The Wax Lake Delta (WLD) is currently being used as a model for evaluating potential land gain from large scale diversions of Mississippi River water and sediment. In this study, we determine the impact of the WLD diversion on plant production at newly formed islands within the delta and adjacent, mainland freshwater marshes. Plant aboveground productivity, sediment nutrient status and short term accretion were measured at three locations on a transect at each of three fresh water marsh sites along Hog Bayou and at six newly formed emerging island sites in the delta. Spring flooding has resulted in a greater increase in plant production and consequently, greater carbon sequestration potential in adjacent mainland marshes compared to the newly formed island sites, which contain less total carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) in the sediment. While sediment diversions are predicted to create land, as seen in island formation in the WLD, the greatest benefit of river sediment diversions from a carbon credit perspective might be to the adjacent freshwater mainland marshes for several reasons. Both greater plant production and sediment C accumulation are two important factors for marsh stability, while perhaps even more critical, is the prevention of the loss of stored sediment C in the marsh profile. This stored C would be lost without the introduction of freshwater, nutrients and sediment through river sediment diversion efforts. -2 -1

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

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