Louisiana State University has been awarded $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation to investigate whether southern coastal Louisiana has reached the tipping point, becoming too costly to sustain.
The interdisciplinary research project will investigate the sustainability of coastal communities that are especially vulnerable to natural resource loss and natural hazards.
“This is the first study to look at both the environmental factors and the human element,” said Nina Lam, professor of environmental science and principle investigator.
The project uses a coupled natural-human system approach to investigate the sustainability of coastal communities where land loss, subsidence, sea-level rise, flooding, hurricanes and oil spills have had a major impact for years. Research will focus on the Lower Mississippi River Basin in Louisiana, one of the most vulnerable coastlines in the world.
“This ambitious, cutting-edge research is at the challenging interface between the natural and social sciences,” said Christopher D’Elia, dean of LSU’s School of Coast & Environment. “By employing modeling and other analytical tools, it aims to understand the complex relationships among its natural and human components. The study’s findings will have ultimate value in future planning and decision making for this distressed region.”
Lam’s group will look at areas north of Lake Pontchartrain and compare to portions south of the lake. During the past decade significant population and economic growth has occurred in the northern part of the study area, while the southern part surrounding New Orleans has experienced population and economic decline.
The project will engage a wide audience including K-12 from underserved schools, local governmental officials, environmental groups and the public through the project’s interactive website, workshops and a number of outreach activities.
Officials said the project’s findings will inform policymakers and the public on how to increase resilience of the region and provide scenarios for a sustainable plan.