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LSU researchers publish commentary on delta preservation with coastal science experts


BATON ROUGE -- The Mississippi River delta region is of huge economic importance to the nation. As a “working coast,” much of the South’s major industries – particularly seafood and petroleum – are largely dependent on the health of the delta and its surrounding areas. After the 2005 hurricane season, however, experts are voicing growing concerns over how the Mississippi Deltaic Plain, or MDP, is being treated.

Researchers at LSU, led by John Day, estuary expert and professor of oceanography at the university, have joined forces with more than 10 other world-renowned coastal scientists to publish “Restoration of the Mississippi Delta: Lessons From Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” which will be featured in the March 23 edition of Science magazine.

The LSU group, which also includes Hassan Mashriqui, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Robert Twilley, professor of oceanography and associate vice chancellor of the Coastal Systems and Society Initiative, hopes that this article and the huge collaboration of experts that it represents will bring worldwide attention to the importance of preserving the MDP. “People need to understand that the formation of the MDP was a very complicated process, and its deterioration is equally as complicated,” said Day. “Humans have affected it at every angle.”

The team of researchers also believes that the article will bring about a greater understanding of the way delta restoration needs to be approached. “We need to tackle projects on a delta-sized scale,” said Day. “We also have to consider every possible factor – global climate change, coastal ecosystems, businesses – in developing a strategy.”

“Corporate sustainability is dependent on environmental sustainability in the Mississippi River delta – thus major restoration efforts are critical to the quality of life here in coastal Louisiana as elsewhere in deltas around the world,” said Twilley.

The article, with Day as lead author, proclaims that “science must guide MDP restoration, which will provide insights into coasts facing climate change in times of resource scarcity.”

“The MDP is one of the most engineered deltas in the world,” said Mashriqui. “Scientists and engineers have to work very closely as we plan for the future.” Because of the complex nature of the MDP and the ecological implications that are inherent to any potential solutions, the process of restoring the coast is not going to be easy or quick.

“This delta is in a state of collapse,” said Day. “But what’s going on in the Mississippi delta is not unique – it’s going on around the world. What we do here to address the problem is going to inform coastal restoration everywhere.”


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