(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers at Tulane University have concluded that if the current rate of sea level rise continues, the swamps remaining in the Mississippi Delta will disappear beneath the water column. Researchers spoke about their discovery in an article in the journal Science Advances.
A reduction of 5000 km2 of wetlands in Louisiana over the past century has been well documented. However, it was much more difficult to predict the fate of the remaining 15,000 km2, which gradually disappear under the onslaught of rising sea levels. In their new work, researchers analyzed hundreds of cores collected since the early 1990s to find out how swamps reacted to different rates of sea level rise over the past 8500 years.
Previous studies have shown that swamps can increase depth at a rate of sea level rise of up to 10 mm / year. But these works were based on observations over a very short period of time, usually several decades. The authors of the new analysis decided to find out how this process proceeded several thousand years ago, when the rate of increase in sea level was very high.
As a result, scientists have discovered that in the Mississippi Delta, most of the swamps can be submerged after several centuries if the rate of sea level rise exceeds 3 mm / year. If this indicator is equal to 7.5 mm / year, then the whole process will happen in about half a century. “The worst thing is that the current rate of sea level rise due to climate change has already exceeded the critical rate, after which the bogs will surely be flooded over time,” said Torbjorn Tornqvist, lead author of the study, professor of geology at Tulane University. “And in the current state of affairs, the pace of sea level rise will continue to accelerate, which means the swamps will disappear even faster.”
Although these findings indicate that the loss of the remaining swamps in coastal Louisiana is probably inevitable, the authors still propose measures that can prevent the worst possible consequences of this process. The most important of them, according to the researchers, is to drastically limit greenhouse gas emissions to prevent sea level rise. Otherwise, the swamps may disappear in a few decades.
Another measure is to divert large rivers as quickly as possible so that at least small sections of the marshes of the Mississippi Delta can survive for a longer time. However, the window of opportunity for these actions quickly closes.
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