Coastal wetlands in the Mississippi Delta are disappearing. Many factors contribute to the stress placed on wetlands, including the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010. But natural forces are at work as well—local sinking of the ground and accelerating rates of sea-level rise, which scientists expect to further accelerate due to climate change.
Over the past century, Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles (4,920 square kilometers) of coastal wetlands—more than one-third of its coastal plain. Because coastal wetlands help protect the coastline from storm surge, Louisiana’s capacity to absorb the surge from hurricanes such as Katrina in 2005 has been weakened. Increases in extreme weather in the Gulf Coast region—home to the U.S. oil and gas industry—are expected to disrupt the nation’s energy production and supply (click here for more information).