Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 1679–1698 | Cite as

Wetland Plant Community Responses to the Interactive Effects of Simulated Nutrient and Sediment Loading: Implications for Coastal Restoration Using Mississippi River Diversions

  • Sareh Poormahdi
  • Sean A. Graham
  • Irving A. Mendelssohn


The Mississippi River Delta Complex (MRDC) has experienced extensive wetland loss in the last century due, in part, to flood control levees that have isolated the lower Mississippi River and its sediment resource from adjacent wetlands. Reconnecting the River to these wetlands through diversions is being used and proposed on a larger scale for the future, to reduce wetland loss rates. However, some currently operating diversions (e.g., Caernarvon and Davis Pond) have been implicated in causing negative impacts on wetland ecosystem structure and function due to increased nutrient loads in diverted Mississippi River water combined with insufficient sediment delivery. Initial assessments of these concerns were carried out in a greenhouse setting where six nutrient enrichment treatment levels (control, NO3, NH4, PO4, SO4, and Combo [NO3 + NH4 + PO4 + SO4]) were applied with and without sediment addition to 60 marsh sods from a Sagittaria lancifolia-dominated oligohaline wetland at rates simulating the Davis Pond Diversion of the Mississippi River. After 25 months, independent enrichment with N (regardless of form) and sediment was generally beneficial to wetland structure and function, while SO4 enrichment had the opposite effect, regardless of sediment addition. Simultaneous application of N and P (i.e., the Combo treatment level) ameliorated the negative impacts of SO4-loading, but the concurrent application of sediment did not, likely because the loading rate was based on a diversion that was designed to deliver water and not to maximize sediment input. Nonetheless, sediment input is critical to the sustainability of MRDC wetlands experiencing high rates of deterioration. Thus, optimizing future diversions to maximize sediment delivery, along with continued surveillance of negative nutrient effects, are recommended management decisions.


Mississippi River Delta Wetland loss River diversion Sediment Nutrient Restoration 



We would like to thank the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, a part of the National Sea Grant College Program, maintained by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce for funds supporting this research. We also gratefully acknowledge and thank Joe Baustian, John Cross, Whitney Kiehn, and Tommy Blanchard for their support in greenhouse and laboratory efforts and Dr. Cathy Wigand and three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sareh Poormahdi
    • 1
  • Sean A. Graham
    • 2
  • Irving A. Mendelssohn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, College of the Coast and EnvironmentLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesNicholls State UniversityThibodauxUSA

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