Management of Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Sites under Increased Climatic Extremes: Effects of Hurricane Katrina on Wetlands Restoration Projects in Coastal Mississippi

Author(s): Foster, M.; Battaglia, L.

Coastal wetland mitigation banks are at the forefront of climate change and are under strict regulatory requirements regarding plant community composition. As effects from climate change intensify, sea level rise and tropical storms may alter the composition of these communities. We measured aspects of plant community structure and diversity at a 382-hectare wetland mitigation bank in southwest Mississippi in 2005-20011. Rapid monitoring assessment with supplemental recording of all species detected was conducted each year at seven pine savanna monitoring plots. The site was in the eye-path of Hurricane Katrina and received over 2.5m of storm surge in August 2005. Multivariate analyses of the understory composition indicated that the high diversity, pre-Katrina community diverged after the storm to a lower diversity subset assemblage. Some recovery through time was evident, although species composition had neither stabilized nor returned to pre-storm conditions by 2011. Richness of savanna forbs dramatically declined following Katrina and has not yet recovered. The assemblages have continued to shift in composition since Katrina, but the eventual state of these systems is not yet known. The reference species composition for a mitigation site is typically strictly defined by regulatory requirements. As a result of tropical storm activity, these coastal ecosystems may be shifting away from fixed reference standards. The likelihood of a major vegetation state change increases as the effects of sea level rise and intensified tropical storm activity become more pronounced along the northern Gulf of Mexico.
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Technical Sessions

1 Best Management Practices #1
2 Delta Water Assessment
3 Flood Assessment & Mgmt.
4 Wetlands
5 Watershed Mgmt. #1
6 Non-Point Source Assessment
7 Modeling
8 Water Quality
9 Best Mgt. Practices #2
10 Delta Water Conservation
11 Sedimentation
12 Storm Water
13 Watershed Mgt. #2
14 Public Water Systems
15 Surface Water Assessment & Evaluation

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