Can River Diversions Restore Marshland?

R. Eugene Turner, Doubt and the Values of an Ignorance-Based World View for Restoration: Coastal Louisiana Wetlands. Estuaries and Coasts (2009) 32:1054–1068.

Christopher M. Swarzenski, Thomas W. Doyle, Brian Fry, and Thomas G. Hargis. Biogeochemical response of organic-rich freshwater marshes in the Louisiana delta plain to chronic river water influx. Biogeochemistry (2008) 90:49–63.

Michael S. Kearney, J. C. Riter & R. Eugene Turner, Freshwater river diversions for marsh restoration in Louisiana: Twenty-six years of changing vegetative cover and marsh area, 38 Geophysical Research Letters (2011)

Tweel, Andrew W, and R Eugene Turner. “Watershed Land Use and River Engineering Drive Wetland Formation and Loss in the Mississippi River Birdfoot Delta.” Limnol. Oceanogr 57, no. 1 (2012): 18–28.

Turner, R Eugene. “Beneath the Salt Marsh Canopy: Loss of Soil Strength with Increasing Nutrient Loads.” Estuaries and Coasts 34, no. 5 (2011): 1084–93.

RE Turner, On the cusp of restoration: science and society, Restoration ecology (2005)

Christopher M. Swarzenski, Surface-Water Hydrology of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in South-Central Louisiana, 1996-1999, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1672.

These papers raise serious doubts about the use of river diversions to restore marshland. It is conventional wisdom that river water will provide sediment to build up the bed of the marsh and nutrients to encourage plant growth. These papers undermine that conventional wisdom through looking at the actual effect of river water on marshes. They found that diversions may weaken marshes, rather than build them up.

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