Our trip in 2004 was to the Mississippi River Delta of Louisiana, Cajun Country. Louisiana contains the Nation's largest area of coastal wetlands, and is also suffering wetland loss at the highest rate. It is an area rich with biodiversity, history, and economic significance to the country.
A natural gradient in salinities in wetlands combined with abundant supply of water and nutrients provides a range of habitats. The region's geography makes it a critical resting place for birds migrating across the Gulf. Major oyster, crab and shrimp fisheries depend on the wetlands.
Ultimately, the land here owes its origin to the Mississippi River, and is naturally ephemeral as the river shifts and delta lobes alternately grow and are destroyed by marine erosion. A century of engineering efforts have interrupted this cycle of deposition and erosion. Construction of levees and jetties prevent annual flooding and deposition of sediment across the delta plain, leading to subsidence and erosion. Blocking outlets has prevented development of new delta lobes and altered salinity gradients. Yet it is this engineering that has made the area viable for development. As one resident put it "In Louisiana, we live behind the levees." Our trip explored these conflicts and proposed avenues to their resolution.
Read more about the trip in these articles: