Ecological consequences of changing hydrological conditions in wetland forests of coastal Louisiana
Large-scale and localized alterations of processes affecting deltaic coastal wetlands have caused the complete loss of some coastal wetland forests and reduced the productivity and vigor of many areas in coastal Louisiana. This loss and degradation threatens ecosystem functions and the services they provide. This paper summarizes ecological relationships controlled by hydrological processes in coastal wetland forests of the Mississippi River delta and presents two case studies that illustrate the complexity of assessing hydrological control on swamp forest establishment and growth. Productivity of overstory trees has been affected by these changes, but the first case study illustrates that the relationship between flooding and growth may be site-specific. An important effect of increased flooding has been to reduce regeneration of swamp forest trees. The second case study is an outline of the kind of hydrological analysis required to assess probability of regeneration success.