The Life And Death And Consequences Of Canals And Spoil Banks In Salt Marshes
We describe the consequence and demise of levees (spoil banks) built from dredging canals in Louisiana salt marshes using morphometric measurements made over 30 years, soil collections on the spoil bank and in the salt marshes behind, and complementary observations from other areas. These measurements were used to determine the temporal bounds of how long spoil banks last and if salt marsh soils remaining in salt marshes are affected. If the rates of changes in spoil bank morphology continue, then the estimated life time of the shrub-tree vegetation at a representative spoil bank is 81 years, the spoil bank width is 89 years, and the dredged channel will erode to the center of the spoil bank after 118 years. The soils in marshes behind the spoil bank have a higher bulk density than in reference marshes, accumulate more mineral matter per year, have lower root mass and are weaker. These observations are compatible with measurements of spoil bank width, vegetative cover and soil compaction, and the conversion from wetland to open water on a coastwide scale.