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The Productivity and Resilience of Plants in an Accreting Lake Delta

Paper Reviewed
Carle, M.V. and Sasser, C.E. 2016. Productivity and Resilience: Long-Term Trends and Storm-Driven Fluctuations in the Plant Community of the Accreting Wax Lake Delta. Estuaries and Coasts 39: 406-422.

Carle and Sasser (2016) report on their study of long-term trends and storm-driven fluctuations in the plant community of an actively accreting sub-delta of the Mississippi River known as the Wax Lake Delta -- which is impacted by both riverine and coastal drivers -- by describing how they used a vegetation index (NDVI) calculated from a time series of 54 peak growing season Landsat-5 TM and Landsat-7 ETM+ images to assess long-term trends and storm event-driven incidences that led to changes in the vegetation community associated with the Wax Lake Delta. And what did they learn by so doing?

The two U.S. researchers report that "both vegetated area and mean NDVI increased over time from 1984 to 2011," although there were significant short-term decreases in productivity, as demonstrated by lower NDVI observations obtained in the wakes of Hurricanes Lili (2002), Rita (2005) and Ike (2008). However, they note that in each of these cases "both vegetated area and mean NDVI recovered to the long-term trend by the following growing season." And as they thus conclude, "these results demonstrate that the freshwater marshes within this mineral-rich accreting delta are increasing in productivity as the delta matures and are extremely resilient to coastal storm disturbance."

Last of all, Carle and Sasser additionally note that their observations "suggest that restoring the connection between deltaic marshes and the river that built them should help to increase both the productivity and resilience of deteriorating marsh communities elsewhere in the Mississippi River deltaic plain."

Posted 27 June 2016