Losing our Coast
The Rise and Disappearance of Southeast Louisiana
On the east side of Louisiana, coastal wetlands inter-grade with long leaf pine savannas, which support many rare and unusual species such as pitcher plants and gopher tortoises.On the western side, they inter-grade with wet prairies, an ecosystem type that was once vast, and now has been all but eliminated. The larger vertebrate fauna such as wolves and bison was exterminated. The eastern coastline of Louisiana is much more susceptible to erosion than the western coastline because much of the eastern coastline was created by silt deposits from the Mississippi River.
Physiography of Louisiana
In many Louisiana swamps, Cypress (Taxodium spp.) and Tupelo Gum (Nyssa aquatic) trees are key species.
The river’s watershed includes 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces and is exceeded in size only by the Amazon and Congo basins.
Land is directly removed through the construction of navigation channels, water front property with finger canals and marinas.
Log Paradise and Putting Up Parking Lots
Similarly, the space between the northern fringes of the French Quarter in New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain was also once a vast cypress and tupelo swamp. Around the same time that the wetlands I’ve just described were being stripped of their cypress (between 1895 and 1920), the city’s northern cypress barrier was turned into lumber, the land was “reclaimed” as a potential residential district through the strategic placement of new drainage canals, and our current metropolitan footprint was established.
Some of the most striking—and depressing—visual images I have seen of the wetlands surrounding New Orleans are satellite photos taken of the areas on the northwest shores of Lake Pontchartrain that were once cypress and tupelo swamps. The ancient cypresses with their flying buttress knees made a formidable barrier that protected lakeside towns from devastating storm and hurricane surges.