Since the beginning of human civilization, people have settled along rivers and on the fertile deltas created by them. The sediment carried and deposited by mighty rushing waters creates land rich in nutrients and ideal for crops and livestock. Where there are uninhibited rivers, there is new, rich land, and where such resources abound there are people.
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Information about wetlands, land loss processes, and sea level rise in Louisiana. Topics include:
- What are Wetlands?
- The Importance of Louisiana’s Wetlands
- The Importance of the Mississippi River and the Gulf
- The Crisis of Wetland Loss
- The Causes of Wetland Loss
- Economic Effects
- More than 35 square miles of valuable wetlands are washed away each year by coastal erosion.
- The 62 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act projects are anticipated to enhance 1,374 square miles of wetlands.
- Louisiana has more than three million acres of coastal wetlands.
- As much as 16 percent of the nation’s fisheries’ harvests, including shrimp, crabs, crawfish, oysters, and many finfish, come from Louisiana’s coast.
- Louisiana provides more fishery landings than any other state in the conterminous United States (more than 1.1 billion pounds/year), and more than 75 percent of Louisiana’s commercially harvested fish and shellfish species are dependent on wetlands.
- Louisiana’s wetlands provide habitat for more than five million wintering waterfowl annually.
- Louisiana’s wetlands are home to many endangered species.
- Economic benefits of Louisiana’s wetlands include:
— $30 billion per year in petroleum products.
— $7.4 billion per year in natural gas (21 percent of the nation’s supply).
— 400 million tons per year of waterborne commerce.
— $2.8 billion per year in commercial fishing.
— $1.6 billion per year in recreational fishing.
— $2.5 million per year in fur harvest (40 percent of the nation’s total).
— $40 million per year in alligator harvests.
- Louisiana accounts for up to 40 percent of the coastal salt marshes in the contiguous United States and 80 percent of the nation’s coastal wetland loss. Wetlands are among the most important and highly productive ecosystems on earth, and Louisiana is losing them at a rate of 25-35 square miles per year. At this rate, Louisiana could lose another 527,000 acres of coastal wetlands by the year 2050!
- Wetland losses in Louisiana are due to a combination of human and natural factors, including subsidence, shoreline erosion, freshwater and sediment deprivation, saltwater intrusion, oil and gas canals, navigation channels, and herbivory.
Using household detergents to help get rid of spilled oil in marine waters is more harmful to the environment than if the oil had been left alone. In fact, putting soap in the water is against the law and can result in fines of up to $25,000 for each incident.
- Approximately 80 percent of earth’s surface is covered with water: one percent is useable freshwater; 97 percent is saltwater; two percent is water frozen in glaciers
- Today, the earth has approximately the same amount of water as when it was formed; the earth will not receive additional water.
- The water consumed today may have been a drink for a dinosaur.
- An average of 168 gallons of water is used per person per day.
- In the United States, approximately 25 trillion gallons of freshwater are used each year.
- Freshwater is being used faster than groundwater is being recharged.
- In the United States, more than 50 percent of the wetlands that recharge and purify groundwater have been destroyed.