Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Sciences

Document Type



Achieving coastal sustainability in low-lying coastal areas is a great challenge. This study developed a spatial dynamic model to study the coupled natural-human responses in the form of population changes in the Lower Mississippi River Basin region. The goal was to identify the key social-economic factors (utility) and selected environmental factors (such as hazards damage, elevation, and subsidence rate) that affect population changes, as well as how population changes affect the local utility and the local environment reciprocally. The study area was partitioned into the “north’ and the “south” by a hypothetical boundary to test the differences of the emergence. Areal interpolation techniques with volume preserving property were used to integrate all the data acquired from different sources and defined in various formats into a unified 3 km by 3 km cellular space. An Elastic Net model was built to extract the rules and calibrate the parameters. Genetic Algorithms were applied to calibrate the neighborhood effects. A Monte Carlo approach using random sampling was used to conduct the uncertainty analysis. The final model yielded an accuracy of above 97% in projecting both the population changes and the developed area percentage changes from 2000 to 2010. A resilience assessment framework and a sustainability assessment framework were used to examine the simulated results from 2010 to 2050. The low-resilience areas were found to concentrate in the “south” in the central metropolitan areas of New Orleans. The sustainability analysis shows that high-resilience areas will always be sustainable. However, for the low-resilience areas, three sustainability conditions can occur depending on the mitigation budget: the tipping space, the mitigatable space, and the sustainable space. A Relative Land Price concept was defined to indicate the surplus value of a spatial unit due to its population and utility. The low-resilience areas were found to have higher Relative Land Prices mainly due to their high populations. In the short time-period simulation (2010-2050), the “south” will fall behind the “north” in population growth and developed land increase, and its average population was projected to be decreasing. However, in the long time-period simulation (2010-2210), its average population is able to bounce back from a certain population level. The results from this study will shed light on the relationships between coastal hazards and human responses and provide valuable insight into the development of optimal strategies for coastal sustainability.



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Committee Chair

Lam, Nina