Date of Award

Summer 8-25-2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Chair

Wei Wu

Committee Chair Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 2

Robert Leaf

Committee Member 2 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 3

Daniel Petrolia

Abstract

There is currently a lack of modeling framework to predict how relative sea-level rise (SLR), combined with restoration activities, affects landscapes of coastal wetlands with uncertainties accounted for at the entire northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM). I developed such a modeling framework – Bayesian multi-level models to study the spatial pattern of wetland loss in the NGOM, driven by relative RSLR, vegetation productivity, tidal range, coastal slope, and wave height – all interacting with river-borne sediment availability, indicated by hydrological regimes. These interactions have not been comprehensively investigated before. I further modified this model to assess the efficacy of restoration projects from 1996 to 2005 and predicted wetland loss by 2100 and 2300 under climate change and restoration scenarios (RCP3 and RCP8.5) in coastal Louisiana. The results show that the main biogeophysical factors contributing to wetland areal loss vary by hydrological regime, but relative SLR and wave height are the main drivers in the majority of the hydrological regimes. In addition, vegetation productivity reduces percent wetland loss and this effect is substantial in the medium riverine discharge regimes. In Louisiana coast, breakwater construction and hydrological alteration restoration are more effective restoration methods compared to vegetation planting and marsh creation, and wetland restoration is predicted to reduce wetland loss under high SLR scenarios. I packaged the modeling results and scenarios analysis into a web tool for wider dissemination. The research will facilitate more-informed restoration plans and help enhance resilience of coastal wetlands to SLR.

ORCID ID

0000-0002-9087-2915

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