Hurricane-induced failure of low salinity wetlands.
ABSTRACT: During the 2005 hurricane season, the storm surge and wave field associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita eroded 527 km(2) of wetlands within the Louisiana coastal plain. Low salinity wetlands were preferentially eroded, while higher salinity wetlands remained robust and largely unchanged. Here we highlight geotechnical differences between the soil profiles of high and low salinity regimes, which are controlled by vegetation and result in differential erosion. In low salinity wetlands, a weak zone (shear strength 500-1450 Pa) was observed approximately 30 cm below the marsh surface, coinciding with the base of rooting. High salinity wetlands had no such zone (shear strengths > 4500 Pa) and contained deeper rooting. Storm waves during Hurricane Katrina produced shear stresses between 425-3600 Pa, sufficient to cause widespread erosion of the low salinity wetlands. Vegetation in low salinity marshes is subject to shallower rooting and is susceptible to erosion during large magnitude storms; these conditions may be exacerbated by low inorganic sediment content and high nutrient inputs. The dramatic difference in resiliency of fresh versus more saline marshes suggests that the introduction of freshwater to marshes as part of restoration efforts may therefore weaken existing wetlands rendering them vulnerable to hurricanes.
Project description:The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 have spurred global interest in the role of coastal wetlands and vegetation in reducing storm surge and flood damages. Evidence that coastal wetlands reduce storm surge and attenuate waves is often cited in support of restoring Gulf Coast wetlands to protect coastal communities and property from hurricane damage. Yet interdisciplinary studies combining hydrodynamic and economic analysis to explore this relationship for temperate marshes in the Gulf are lacking. By combining hydrodynamic analysis of simulated hurricane storm surges and economic valuation of expected property damages, we show that the presence of coastal marshes and their vegetation has a demonstrable effect on reducing storm surge levels, thus generating significant values in terms of protecting property in southeast Louisiana. Simulations for four storms along a sea to land transect show that surge levels decline with wetland continuity and vegetation roughness. Regressions confirm that wetland continuity and vegetation along the transect are effective in reducing storm surge levels. A 0.1 increase in wetland continuity per meter reduces property damages for the average affected area analyzed in southeast Louisiana, which includes New Orleans, by $99-$133, and a 0.001 increase in vegetation roughness decreases damages by $24-$43. These reduced damages are equivalent to saving 3 to 5 and 1 to 2 properties per storm for the average area, respectively.
Project description:Hurricanes have the potential to alter the structures of coastal ecosystems and generate pathogen-laden floodwaters thatthreaten public health. To examine the impact of hurricanes on urban systems, we compared microbial community structures in samples collected after Hurricane Katrina and before and after Hurricane Rita. We extracted environmental DNA and sequenced small-subunit rRNA (SSU rRNA) gene clone libraries to survey microbial communities in floodwater, water, and sediment samples collected from Lake Charles, Lake Pontchartrain, the 17th Street and Industrial Canals in New Orleans, and raw sewage. Correspondence analysis showed that microbial communities associated with sediments formed one cluster while communities associated with lake and Industrial Canal water formed a second. Communities associated with water from the 17th Street Canal and floodwaters collected in New Orleans showed similarity to communities in raw sewage and contained a number of sequences associated with possible pathogenic microbes. This suggests that a distinct microbial community developed in floodwaters following Hurricane Katrina and that microbial community structures as a whole might be sensitive indicators of ecosystem health and serve as "sentinels" of water quality in the environment.
Project description:The ocean and atmosphere in the North Atlantic are coupled through a feedback mechanism that excites a dipole pattern in vertical wind shear (VWS), a metric that strongly controls Atlantic hurricanes. In particular, when tropical VWS is under the weakening phase and thus favorable for increased hurricane activity in the Main Development Region (MDR), a protective barrier of high VWS inhibits hurricane intensification along the U.S. East Coast. Here we show that this pattern is driven mostly by natural decadal variability, but that greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing erodes the pattern and degrades the natural barrier along the U.S. coast. Twenty-first century climate model projections show that the increased VWS along the U.S. East Coast during decadal periods of enhanced hurricane activity is substantially reduced by GHG forcing, which allows hurricanes approaching the U.S. coast to intensify more rapidly. The erosion of this natural intensification barrier is especially large following the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (rcp8.5) emission scenario.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy were two of the most significant disasters of the 21st century that critically impacted communities and the health of their residents. Despite the assumption that disasters affect access to healthcare, to our knowledge prior studies have not rigorously examined availability of healthcare providers following disasters. OBJECTIVE:The objective of this study was to examine availability of healthcare providers following large-scale hurricanes. METHODS:Using historical data on healthcare providers from the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System and county-level population characteristics, we conducted a quasi-experimental study to examine the effect of large-scale hurricanes on healthcare provider availability in the short-term and long-term. We separately examined availability of primary care physicians, medical specialists, surgeons, and nurse practitioners. A difference-in-differences analysis was used to control for time variant factors comparing county-level health care provider availability in affected and unaffected counties the year before Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, to five years after each storm. RESULTS:Counties affected by Hurricane Katrina compared to unaffected locales experienced a decrease of 3.59 primary care physicians per 10,000 population (95% CI: -6.5, -0.7), medical specialists (decrease of 5.9 providers per 10,000 (95% CI: -11.3, -0.5)), and surgeons (decrease of 2.1 (95% CI: -3.8, -0.37)). However, availability of nurse practitioners did not change appreciably. Counties affected by Hurricane Sandy exhibited less pronounced changes. Changes in availability of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, medical specialists, and surgeons were not statistically significant. CONCLUSION:Large-scale hurricanes appear to affect availability of healthcare providers for up to several years following impact of the storm. Effects vary depending on the characteristics of the community. Primary care physicians and medical specialists availability was the most impacted, potentially having long-term implications for population health in the context of disaster recovery.
Project description:Few studies have assessed the results of multiple exposures to disaster. Our objective was to examine the effect of experiencing Hurricane Gustav on mental health of women previously exposed to Hurricane Katrina. A total of 102 women from Southern Louisiana were interviewed by telephone. Experience of the hurricanes was assessed with questions about injury, danger and damage, while depression was assessed with the Edinburgh Depression Scale and post-traumatic stress disorder using the Post-Traumatic Checklist. Minor stressors, social support, trait resilience and perceived benefit had been measured previously. Mental health was examined with linear and log-linear models. Women who had a severe experience of both Gustav and Katrina scored higher on the mental health scales, but finding new ways to cope after Katrina or feeling more prepared was not protective. About half the population had better mental health scores after Gustav than at previous measures. Improvement was more likely among those who reported high social support or low levels of minor stressors, or were younger. Trait resilience mitigated the effect of hurricane exposure. Multiple disaster experiences are associated with worse mental health overall, although many women are resilient. Perceiving benefit after the first disaster was not protective.
Project description:Long-term ecological research can resolve effects of disturbance on ecosystem dynamics by capturing the scale of disturbance and interactions with environmental changes. To quantify how disturbances interact with long-term directional changes (sea-level rise, freshwater restoration), we studied 17 yr of monthly dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total nitrogen (TN), and phosphorus (TP) concentrations and bacterioplankton productivity across freshwater-to-marine estuary gradients exposed to multiple disturbance events (e.g., droughts, fire, hurricanes, and low-temperature anomalies) and long-term increases in water levels. By studying two neighboring drainages that differ in hydrologic connectivity, we additionally tested how disturbance legacies are shaped by hydrologic connectivity. We predicted that disturbance events would interact with long-term increases in water levels in freshwater and marine ecosystems to increase spatiotemporal similarity (i.e., synchrony) of organic matter, nutrients, and microbial activities. Wetlands along the larger, deeper, and tidally influenced Shark River Slough (SRS) drainage had higher and more variable DOC, TN, and TP concentrations than wetlands along the smaller, shallower, tidally restricted Taylor River Slough/Panhandle (TS/Ph) drainage. Along SRS, DOC concentrations declined with proximity to coast, and increased in magnitude and variability following drought and flooding in 2015 and a hurricane in 2017. Along TS/Ph, DOC concentrations varied by site (higher in marine than freshwater wetlands) but not year. In both drainages, increases in TN from upstream freshwater marshes occurred following fire in 2008 and droughts in 2010 and 2015, whereas downstream increases in TP occurred with coastal storm surge from hurricanes in 2005 and 2017. Decreases in DOC:TN and DOC:TP were explained by increased TN and TP. Increases in bacterioplankton productivity occurred throughout both drainages following low-temperature events (2010 and 2011) and a hurricane (2017). Long-term TN and TP concentrations and bacterioplankton productivity were correlated (r > 0.5) across a range of sampling distances (1-50 km), indicating spatiotemporal synchrony. DOC concentrations were not synchronized across space or time. Our study advances disturbance ecology theory by illustrating how disturbance events interact with long-term environmental changes and hydrologic connectivity to determine the magnitude and extent of disturbance legacies. Understanding disturbance legacies will enhance prediction and enable more effective management of rapidly changing ecosystems.
Project description:Salt marsh losses have been documented worldwide because of land use change, wave erosion, and sea-level rise. It is still unclear how resistant salt marshes are to extreme storms and whether they can survive multiple events without collapsing. Based on a large dataset of salt marsh lateral erosion rates collected around the world, here, we determine the general response of salt marsh boundaries to wave action under normal and extreme weather conditions. As wave energy increases, salt marsh response to wind waves remains linear, and there is not a critical threshold in wave energy above which salt marsh erosion drastically accelerates. We apply our general formulation for salt marsh erosion to historical wave climates at eight salt marsh locations affected by hurricanes in the United States. Based on the analysis of two decades of data, we find that violent storms and hurricanes contribute less than 1% to long-term salt marsh erosion rates. In contrast, moderate storms with a return period of 2.5 mo are those causing the most salt marsh deterioration. Therefore, salt marshes seem more susceptible to variations in mean wave energy rather than changes in the extremes. The intrinsic resistance of salt marshes to violent storms and their predictable erosion rates during moderate events should be taken into account by coastal managers in restoration projects and risk management plans.
Project description:Disturbances are a primary facilitator of the growth and spread of invasive species. However, the effects of large-scale disturbances, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, on the broad geographic patterns of invasive species growth and spread have not been investigated. We used historical aerial imagery to determine the growth rate of invasive Phragmites australis patches in wetlands along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. These were relatively undisturbed wetlands where P. australis had room for unrestricted growth. Over the past several decades, invasive P. australis stands expanded in size by 6-35% per year. Based on tropical storm and hurricane activity over that same time period, we found that the frequency of hurricane-force winds explained 81% of the variation in P. australis growth over this broad geographic range. The expansion of P. australis stands was strongly and positively correlated with hurricane frequency. In light of the many climatic models that predict an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes over the next century, these results suggest a strong link between climate change and species invasion and a challenging future ahead for the management of invasive species.
Project description:As exposure to coastal hazards increases there is growing interest in nature-based solutions for risk reduction. This study uses high-resolution flood and loss models to quantify the impacts of coastal wetlands in the northeastern USA on (i) regional flood damages by Hurricane Sandy and (ii) local annual flood losses in Barnegat Bay in Ocean County, New Jersey. Using an extensive database of property exposure, the regional study shows that wetlands avoided $625 Million in direct flood damages during Hurricane Sandy. The local study combines these models with a database of synthetic storms in Ocean County and estimates a 16% average reduction in annual flood losses by salt marshes with higher reductions at lower elevations. Together, the studies quantify the risk reduction ecosystem services of marsh wetlands. Measuring these benefits in collaboration with the risk modelling industry is crucial for assessing risk accurately and, where appropriate, aligning conservation and risk reduction goals.
Project description:Sea-level rise is a major factor in wetland loss worldwide, and in much of Chesapeake Bay (USA) the rate of sea-level rise is higher than the current global rate of 3.2 mm yr-1 due to regional subsidence. Marshes along estuarine salinity gradients differ in vegetation composition, productivity, decomposition pathways, and sediment dynamics, and may exhibit different responses to sea-level rise. Coastal marshes persist by building vertically at rates at or exceeding regional sea-level rise. In one of the first studies to examine elevation dynamics across an estuarine salinity gradient, we installed 15 surface elevation tables (SET) and accretion marker-horizon plots (MH) in tidal freshwater, oligohaline, and brackish marshes across a Chesapeake Bay subestuary. Over the course of four years, wetlands across the subestuary decreased 1.8 ± 2.7 mm yr-1 in elevation on average, at least 5 mm yr-1 below that needed to keep pace with global sea-level rise. Elevation change rates did not significantly differ among the marshes studied, and ranged from -9.8 ± 6.9 to 4.5 ± 4.3 mm yr-1. Surface accretion of deposited mineral and organic matter was uniformly high across the estuary (~9-15 mm yr-1), indicating that elevation loss was not due to lack of accretionary input. Position in the estuary and associated salinity regime were not related to elevation change or surface matter accretion. Previous studies have focused on surface elevation change in marshes of uniform salinity (e.g., salt marshes); however, our findings highlight the need for elevation studies in marshes of all salinity regimes and different geomorphic positions, and warn that brackish, oligohaline, and freshwater tidal wetlands may be at similarly high risk of submergence in some estuaries.