Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gulf oil spill: Mississippi River hydrology may help reduce oil onshore

Date:
June 18, 2010
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
The Gulf of Mexico: what role will the Mississippi River play in oil washing ashore and into delta wetlands? One of the spill's greatest environmental threats is to Louisiana's wetlands, scientists believe.

Mississippi River hydrology may hold a possible answer for protecting fragile Gulf wetlands.
Credit: USGS

The Gulf of Mexico: what role will the Mississippi River play in oil washing ashore and into delta wetlands? One of the spill's greatest environmental threats is to Louisiana's wetlands, scientists believe. But there may be good news ahead.

Scientists affiliated with the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED), a National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center headquartered at the University of Minnesota, are using long-term field plots in Louisiana's Wax Lake Delta to measure the baseline conditions of, and track the effects of the oil spill on, coastal Louisiana wetlands.

Robert Twilley and Guerry Holm of Louisiana State University (LSU) are investigating the degree to which two delta wetland characteristics may help mitigate oil contamination.

Fresh water head, as it's called, the slope of the water's surface from a river delta to the sea, and residence time of river-mouth wetlands, the time it takes water to move through a wetland at a river's mouth, are important to understanding how delta wetlands will respond to the oil spill, say the researchers.

"Since the Mississippi River is currently at a relatively high stage, we expect the river's high volume of freshwater to act as a hydrologic barrier, keeping oil from moving into the Wax Lake Delta from the sea," says Twilley.

Twilley and Holm are performing baseline and damage assessments on the plants and soils of, and comparing oil degradation processes in, freshwater and saltwater Louisiana wetlands.

"The Mississippi River's 'plumbing' provides a potential benefit to reducing the movement of oil onshore from shelf waters," says Twilley.

The Mississippi's flow has been altered for flood control to protect people and infrastructure in this working delta.

River diversion structures--concrete gates built within the levees of the river--may be operated, however, to allow water to flow to specific coastal basins and floodways, says Twilley, "as a way to provide controlled floods."

The operational features of this system "downriver to the control structure near Venice, Louisiana," he says, "may provide a second line of defense against oil washing in."

But any strategy using Mississippi River hydrology must be one of clear options and tradeoffs, says H. Richard Lane, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences, which funds NCED.

"As the river stage falls and protection diminishes," says Lane, "it becomes a question of how best to distribute this freshwater resource to defend the coast from the movement of oil onshore."

The answer, Twilley says, lies in the delicate balance of river, coastal and Gulf of Mexico processes "that must work in concert to benefit the incredible 'ecosystem services' this region provides to the nation."

Louisiana wetlands "play a vital role in protecting New Orleans from hurricane damage, providing habitat for wildlife, supporting economically important fisheries, and maintaining water quality," says Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, director of NCED.

"We must look at all options for protecting them for the future."

In addition to his NCED and LSU affiliations, Twilley is the recipient of an NSF rapid response oil spill grant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Gulf oil spill: Mississippi River hydrology may help reduce oil onshore." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100617120720.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2010, June 18). Gulf oil spill: Mississippi River hydrology may help reduce oil onshore. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100617120720.htm
National Science Foundation. "Gulf oil spill: Mississippi River hydrology may help reduce oil onshore." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100617120720.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins