Evaluation of Wetland Gain and Loss of Abandoned Agricultural Impoundments in South Louisiana, 1978–1988


R. E. Turner.


At least 43 agriculture fields were built in south Louisiana wetlands between 1900 and 1920 using pumps and levees. All but one project is now abandoned as a result of soil subsidence, financial difficulties, or multiple levee failures. Some are now in flood-protected urban zones, and the remainder are mostly open water. The total area of abandoned agricultural fields in 1990 is large (> 80,000 ha), and their levees continue to deteriorate naturally. Ten failed or abandoned coastal agricultural impoundments (22,680 ha) were examined to determine recent wetland restoration or regression rates from 1978 to 1988. Wetland area and levee length were determined from aerial photography for 1978,1983,1985, and 1988. Average wetland change rates for all areas ranged from −4.28 to +2.54% per year from 1978 to 1988. One site gained wetland area between 1978 and 1988 (77 ha/yr), and four sites gained wetland area between 1985 and 1988 (range 14–439 ha/yr). Wetland area in the other sites either remained stable or declined during the study period. The results from a multiple regression model indicate that restoration is inversely related to impoundment size and directly related to levee reduction. Results from a multiple regression model indicate that active levee removal will probably enhance wetland restoration rates at a very favorable cost (< $1/ha) and will be sustainable with little additional management.