A 5200-year paleoecological and geochemical record of coastal environmental changes and shoreline fluctuations in southwestern Louisiana: Implications for coastal sustainability
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A 5200-year paleoecological and geochemical record of coastal environmental changes and shoreline fluctuations in southwestern Louisiana: Implications for coastal sustainability

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  • Journal Title:
    Geomorphology
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  • Description:
    This study presents a 5200-year history of coastal environmental changes and shoreline fluctuations based on a multi-proxy sedimentary record developed from the eastern end of Louisiana's Chenier Plain. Palynological, loss-on ignition, grain-size, and X-ray fluorescence data for a 525 cm sedimentary core indicate five stages of ecosystem development in the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge since the mid-Holocene. Between 5190 and 4240 cal yr BP, the relative sea-level was much lower than the present level, and our study area was occupied by a baldcypress swamp. When the Sale-Cypremont subdelta complex formed at a western position approximately 4600 years ago, our study area was transformed to a maritime forest about 4240–3440 cal yr BP, suggesting shoreline progradation. When the Mississippi River delta lobe switched to more easterly positions during the Teche, St. Bernard, Lafourche, and Plaquemine-Balize complexes, our study site was transformed back to a freshwater swamp between 3440 and 1520 cal yr BP and then to a coastal marsh between 1520 and 300 cal yr BP. After the Atchafalaya-Wax Lake subdelta complex formed at a more westerly position again, the modern-day beach form at 300 cal yr BP. These coastal ecosystem developments suggest that shoreline retreat started at ~3440 cal yr BP and persisted to the present day. In addition, evidence of at least four possible paleohurricane events was found during the late Holocene. Our multi-proxy record demonstrates that shoreline fluctuation in southwestern Louisiana was tied to the Mississippi River Delta Switch since the mid-Holocene. Shoreline progradation occurred during the Sale-Cypremont subdelta phase ~5200–3500 years ago, when the sediment supply was high. Retrogradation occurred after ~3500 cal yr BP when the Mississippi River subdelta complexes occupied more easterly position, resulting in diminished sediment supply. A significant increase in the delivery of water and total suspended sediment load from the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico is needed in order to sustain the southwestern Louisiana coastal wetlands.
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  • Source:
    Geomorphology, 365, 107284
  • DOI:
  • ISSN:
    0169-555X
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    Accepted Manuscript
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    Library
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