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Our Coast

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This is a contributing entry for Our Coast and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Historically, prior to European settlement, the Central Wetlands was made up of a combination of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) swamp, fresh marsh and bottomland hardwood forest. This provided natural storm surge protection for the people of New Orleans. The Central Wetlands have been subjected to many anthropogenic and natural impacts over time including, leveeing of the Mississippi, construction of oil, gas, and navigation canals, construction of the MRGO, the construction of the levees around the Central Wetlands and logging. Currently, the Central Wetlands are a mosaic of wetland habitats that range from relatively healthy with stable soil and dense vegetation to open water and ghost swamps. They are subject to influences inside and outside the area that can have an effect on hydrology and salinity dynamics. There has been great interest and much conversation about the restoration and effective management of the Central Wetlands since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Ninth Ward community and surrounding area. The closure of the MRGO was a solid first step towards hydrologic restoration. Currently, there are several restoration plans and pilot projects in consideration that would impact the Central Wetlands and attempt to restore some of the natural habitat while strengthening ecosystem services. These plans and proposals include, but are not limited to: marsh creation, cypress‐tupelo and marsh plantings, and wastewater assimilation. The success of planting projects depends largely on the suitability of the planting location, namely soil salinity and hydrological conditions, to the vegetation being planted. An in-depth understanding of the environmental parameters found across the Central Wetlands will allow for more informed planning of restoration activities, which will increase the success and effectiveness of those restoration activities and their impact on the surrounding communities.