Vanishing Islands: Seagrass & Sediment Erosion

Latest update December 20, 2018 Started on October 23, 2018
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sea

The Chandeleur Islands are a chain of barrier islands in the northern Gulf of Mexico that support the only marine seagrass beds in Louisiana, USA, and are the sole location of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum across nearly 1,000 km of coastline from west Florida to central Texas. Over the past 150 years, land area of the Chandeleur Islands has decreased by over half, resulting in a decline of seagrass cover (Darnell et al., 2017).


This expedition aims to identify the processes that govern seagrass dieback and draw correlations between island erosion, wave energy change and seagrass meadow decline.

October 23, 2018
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Preparation

Gearing up for site selection brought this old map to our attention. This map (analysis and maps generated by Matt Bethel) shows the initial decline post Hurricane Katrina.

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Expedition Background

We plan to visit the islands seagrass meadows to monitor the degree of burial by measuring sand layer thickness in areas where seagrass beds are declining, and compare to areas that appear to be thriving. Additionally, we plan to document waves in these shallow environments to determine if the island loss allows for larger waves to increase sand transport and thus increase seagrass burial.

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Hello Ed Welph, thank you for your comments! Temperature is on our radar as a potential contributor - our sensor arrays that will measure waves, will also be collecting optical backscatter (a proxy for sediment/turbidity), salinity and temperature. It would be interesting to see any trends.

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