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Habitat change in coastal Louisiana from 1955/6 to 1978 was analyzed to determine the influence of geological and man-made changes on landscape patterns within 7.5 min quadrangle maps. Three quantitative analyses were used: principal components analysis, multiple regression analysis, and cluster analysis.

Regional differences in land loss rates reflect variations in geology and the deltaic growth/decay cycles, man-induced changes in hydrology (principally canal dredging and spoil banking), and land-use changes (principally urbanization and agricultural expansion). The coastal zone is not homogeneous with respect to these variables and the interaction between causal factors leading to wetland loss is therefore locally variable and complex.

The relationship between wetland loss, hydrologic changes, and geology can be described with statistically meaningful results, even though these data are insufficient to precisely quantify the relationship. However, these data support the hypothesis that the indirect impacts of man-induced changes (hydrologic and land use) may be as influential as the direct impacts resulting in converting wetlands to open water (canals) or modified (impounded) habitat.

Three regions within the Louisiana coastal zone can be defined, based on the potential causal factors used in the analyses. The moderate (mean = 22%) wetland loss rates in region 1 are a result of relatively high canal density and developed area in marshes which overlie sediments of moderate age and depth; local geology acts, in this case, to lessen indirect impacts. On the other hand, wetland loss rates in region 2 are high (mean = 36%), despite fewer man-induced impacts; the potential for increased wetland loss due to both direct and indirect effects of man's activity in these areas is high. Conversely, wetland loss (mean = 20%) in region 3 is apparently least influenced by man's activity in the coastal zone because of sedimentary geology (old, thin sediments), even though these areas have already experienced significant direct habitat alteration and wetland loss.

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Environmental Management

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